Shake the Salt Spin
Last week one of our viewers, Chris, expressed concern about a NY Times article called “Big Benefits Are Seen from Eating Less Salt” The article referred to a report from The New England Journal of Medicine concluding that lowering salt in the diet by even a small amount could reduce heart disease and strokes.
Instead of banging heads against walls trying to get consumers to eat less salt, efforts are being made to get food manufacturers and restaurants to lower the sodium content of their food. I guess that’s a good idea. But wait. The sodium and sugar in fast food and restaurant chain dishes is the only flavor present. If you cut it, it’s going to taste bad. We could create catastrophic repercussions like we did with the no-fat era.
In the late 70’s when the proclamation came that Americans needed to lower their fat intake from 40% of the diet to 30% what happened? First, we did it. How? By switching former brand loyalty to new fat-free or lower fat brands. We choked down the less satisfying cookies and yogurts and soups and did we get thinner? Healthier? Nope. Because food manufacturers had to make the foods edible enough that we’d buy them, they added sugar (HFCS). Snackwells proudly strutted 2 grams of fat while they upped the carbohydrate content to 13 grams by adding more sugar.
Then what happened? Well the prevalence of obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes soared during the fat-free campaign as we took aim and shot but at the wrong target. (the real culprit is the sugar, more on that in another post). If they take the salt out of food, I shake in my boots anticipating what cheap chemical might be added to keep Americans buying food off of the grocer’s shelf. And what that chemical might do to our metabolism.
Salt is a magical ingredient. It draws the liquid in food out, bringing flavors to the surface. That’s why you salt vegetables while cooking if you want them to become limp and juicy and you don’t salt them until just before serving if you want them crisp and perky. Bland complex carbohydrate foods like potatoes, whole grains and beans are almost tasteless without that little toss of salt.
It’s not that we need to quit salting our beans, it’s that we need to quit buying things that come in a can or a box or a drive-through. Adding sodium and sugar are the trickster ways that food manufacturers have of not only keeping food palatable but creating cravings. Foods that we don’t think of as salty ARE if they are purchased packaged. Corn flakes (351 mg sodium), Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits (633 mg. sodium) Mc Donald’s Grilled Chicken club (1690 mg. – higher than a Big Mac).
But you guys know all this. Just thought I’d remind you that you’re right. Right on. Movers and salt shakers.