Monday, April 6, 2009

To Salt or not to Salt?

Put down that salt shaker and step back from the table!

That’s a one sentence summary of the latest public health alert on sodium intake from health watchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report concludes that 70% of U.S. adults should limit sodium intake- a number far greater than many had expected. Although guidelines for daily sodium intake were published in 2005, the percentage of people who should be following the lower limit hadn’t been figured out yet. Talk about spicing things up! The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend healthy adults consume no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon of salt) per day. A lower limit of 1,500 mg per day is recommended for adults with high blood pressure, the over 40s, and all African-American adults. FYI: most of us consume around 4000 milligrams of sodium a day so it looks like just about everyone will have to shake some of their salt habit to follow current health advice.
Cutting Salt Not Simple
Fortunately, there are good minds with discriminating taste buds working on lowering sodium content of popular foods-even fast foods. Chick-fil-A dietitian, Jodie Worrell says there’s an industry wide movement to trim salt content from menus, “Sodium removal is a difficult project. Trans-fat removal took two years.” So Worrell’s Chick-fil-A product development team is working to find a win-win for taste and health, “Taste panels meet every other Monday. For instance, we are looking at ways to add salt topically on fries so you get the salty flavor with less total sodium.” Another challenge for restaurants is that consumer demand for lower fat foods meant adding flavor with other ingredients such as vinaigrette dressings and spice blends which are often pretty high in sodium. If you do choose to limit sodium intake, Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods list sodium content to help you keep track. But, when it comes to dining out, you’re often on your own. Some restaurants provide sodium information on their websites, so that’s helpful. But, in general here are a few salt savvy tips for dining out.

Salt Savvy - The main source of sodium in the diet is table salt (Sodium Chloride or NaCl), which is 40 per cent sodium by weight. 1 tsp salt = 2325 mg sodium
Taste buds adjust. Scientists who study taste have found that when you cut back on salt you get used to it in about three weeks. You may even discover the real flavor of foods!
· Note that pickles, cheese, smoked meats, gravies, sauces, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, soy sauce and broths are usually high in sodium so use sparingly.
· Ask the server for help. Request that foods be prepared without added salt, or ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side. For low-sodium dressings, try lemon or a splash of vinegar.
· Look for menu items you can season your self at the table, such as a baked potato instead of mashed potatoes.

· Here’s a surprise. Surface salt, such as a light shake on scrambled eggs or fresh sliced tomatoes, can give you the salt flavor hit you crave with just a small sprinkling.
· Eat more spinach, cantaloupe, oranges and other fruits and vegetables. They’re naturally low in sodium and are good sources of the mineral potassium which acts as the counter-balance to sodium in body fluid regulation.

Heavy on the Sodium:

Soy sauce/steak sauce
Cheese/cheese sauces
Cold cuts/ Sausage/hot dogs
Salad dressings
Cakes/Biscuits (because baking soda or baking powder which contains sodium bicarbonate is used is leavening agent)

Light on (or no) Sodium:

Fresh herbs, spices
Lemon juice
Vinegar and Oil
Fruit sauces and salsas

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