Growing up, I like most children, watched my mother cook. It was always good quality time spent with her but the wonderful aromas; heat of the kitchen (living in England that was always a plus!) and the odd cake mix bowl to scrape out once she finished with it was always worth the time!
I obviously observed many things during those kitchen days, but the addition of salt to just plain old boiling water and so many recipes that I had not even dreamed could need salt, stuck in my mind. When setting the table the salt and pepper cellar was always added no matter what the meal was and it would often be only the salt that everyone grabbed to sprinkle on their food rather than the pepper. I also observed that my family would not even taste the food before adding salt, it was a habit, and all you could hear was “pass the salt please” before the clinking of cutlery to plate even began.
So it is easy to see that the taste for salt can be cultivated at a very young age and for some people can become quite an addiction.
As health research and information improves and becomes more accessible, we read, absorb and try to make lifestyle changes accordingly. Many of us are obviously now aware that a diet high in sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke. While a few shakes of salt here and there may seem innocent enough the majority of the salt in our diets does not come from the salt shaker. In fact most of us are completely unaware of how much salt we actually consume.
The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2,300 mg each day for healthy adults and 1,500 mg for those who are “salt sensitive” i.e. those whose blood pressure increases more dramatically with salt intake.
The American Heart Association recommends that everyone limit themselves to 1,500 mg of sodium per day and your doctor may recommend a lower intake if you have serious high blood pressure. So what does 1,500 mg of sodium equate to? Well one teaspoon of salt has 2,325 mg of sodium! That’s more than your entire day’s allotment and you just added it to one recipe!
So what is so dangerous about sodium anyway? Whilst some is essential, a diet high in sodium can cause strain on the heart. Excess salt remains in our bloodstream, attracting water and creating a greater volume of blood, as explained by the Mayo Clinic. That, in turn, will increase blood pressure as the heart has to work harder and the arteries endure more to move more blood around our body. High blood pressure increases the likelihood that a blood vessel will clog or rupture, causing a cardiac arrest or stroke.
High Salt Foods
Canned soups or vegetables
Processed meats: smoked meat, deli meat, regular canned tuna, hot dogs
Snack foods: chips, cookies, pretzels, salted nuts
Condiments: pickles, relish, olives, soy sauce, tartar sauce, chili sauce
Tips for Cutting Back
Go fresh! Choose fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and meats
Avoid salt during food preparation – do you really need to add salt to that boiling pasta water?
Use frozen vegetables and fruits over the canned variety but if you must use the can make sure you rinse, rinse and rinse again!
Add flavor with fresh herbs, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic or onion powder.
Limit salty snacks and eat fewer foods out of a box or can.
Look for lower sodium varieties.
When ordering fries with your meal at a restaurant ask them not to add salt, at least this way you are in control of how much you put on your plate. This is a must for your children’s food, don’t let the kitchen add it to their fries, remember cultivating the taste for salt begins when we are young. Protect your child’s heart at all costs.