Beyond The Salt Shaker

How does all this salt get in our diet?

By PEERtrainer Health and Fitness Team
Americans eat an average of 4 times more the recommended allowance of sodium and have an extraordinarily high rate of hypertension (high blood pressure.) Hypertension is an extremely dangerous medical condition, and one that is virtually unheard of in societies that do not routinely use salt in their foods. Whole foods, with no sodium added, naturally provide all of the trace minerals and sodium that the body needs.

How does all this salt get into our diet? The real culprit is not the saltshaker on our tables, but processed and fast foods. Salt that is added to meals at home constitute only 11% of our sodium intake, whereas 77% comes from processed and restaurant foods. The remainder is the sodium that occurs naturally in whole, unadulterated foods.  “A typical person needs between 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams per day; the new recommendations are right on point," said Edward Rosick, University Health Services physician. Contrast that with a restaurant meal, which can contain as much as 4600 milligrams.

Some sources of salt are obvious- crackers and salted popcorn, for example. But sodium also shows up in places that we might not think to look. You might be surprised to hear that a cup of canned beans can have as much as 770 milligrams, or that the same amount of pasta sauce contains up to 1000 milligrams of sodium! A 20-ounce bottle of diet soda contains ½ of Dr. Fuhrman’s recommended daily allowance.

Manufacturers use salt because it is a cheap way to heighten flavor and reduce bitterness in foods. When new food products are tested in consumer focus groups, in most cases, the participants don’t like the food if it is perceived as ‘not salty enough’. The problem is that as we grow accustomed to eating over-salted foods, our ability to enjoy subtler flavors diminishes. Once you cut back your intake of sodium, you will find that you begin to again enjoy the flavors of more wholesome foods.

The key to planning a low-sodium diet is to read the nutrition information on foods. You will find that there are low-sodium alternatives to many of your favorites. Of course, the closer your food is to its natural, whole state, the less sodium it will contain. A balanced diet of natural foods provides all the sodium and iodine that your body needs.

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