Americans pass the salt…and we pass lots of it! We’ve gotten so accustomed to the flavor and deliciousness of salty foods that it’ll take a real concentrated effort to cut back on sodium. However, experts tell us that it’s an effort we HAVE to make.
The average American diet has turned into a dangerous diet and salt has a lot to do with it. I’m not sure that we’re necessarily being more aggressive with the salt shakers. I think a lot of the salty trouble is from salt lurking in “innocent” foods – foods like soups, frozen pizza, diet drinks, etc. In fact close to 80 percent of salt in our diet comes from processed foods.
It has gotten so bad that the government is being asked to step in and force food makers to change their salty ways.
New research shows that Americans consume about one and a half teaspoons a day. ..more than double what we need for good health. More than double… wow.
I never have a salt shaker on our table, and use very little in my cooking. I prefer herbs, garlic, pepper, and other innocent spices. But that certainly doesn’t keep us from having to wage a full-out salt battle in our home. Even a so-called low calorie salad dressing can be loaded with sodium… Up 994 milligrams . That’s just half a teaspoon per serving. And half the recommended amount of sodium for an entire day. In fact, if you check the nutritional values on the labels of your favorite foods, you’ll be in for quite a shock. Especially on LOW FAT and LOW CALORIE foods. It seems that the companies think they have to compensate for the reduced sugar with salt. Why not herbs and spices?
The Institute of Medicine is urging the government to step in and force food makers to gradually cut the salt in those food. Doctors point out that some salt is necessary for good health, but the effect of too much salt is well known. Not only does it elevate blood pressure, which by itself causes heart disease, kidney disease and brain disease but it also has a direct effect on the heart, kidney and brain.
The American Medical Association says that if salt in processed and restaurant food were cut in half over ten years, over 150,000 lives a year could be saved.
Start checking the labels of your favorite foods and make smart choices. A lot of foods are available with “LOW SALT” and, trust me, you seldom miss the salt. In fact, it’s kind of refreshing to simply taste the food as it was intended to be enjoyed.
As I said, my favorite tool in my cutting-back-on-salt arsenal is herbs. The time is perfect to plant your own herb bed and experiment with different flavors. We grow thyme, rosemary, cilantro, stevia, chives, mint, basil, oregano, and sage in our garden and I’m always looking for fresh herbs to grow and try. My biggest challenge? Diet Dr. Pepper – without a doubt. I’ve cut “back” but “out” just doesn’t seem to be an option. I don’t smoke or drink and I certainly don’t do drugs. Heck I don’t even cuss (unless I were to smash my toe, see a snake, or endure a misfortune so foul that a D– were truly the only appropriate response). I’m clinging to this vice in a 2-Liter and trying to pry it out of my hands might lead to one of those misfortunes I just spoke of.
Let’s not try it, shall we?
Another trick that’s worth trying is something my mother often did and my daughter Brittany does a great deal of: Turn to pepper. My mom would even put pepper on fruit – I know, I agree, ewww – but it kept her away from the salt. The woman put it on watermelon, tomatoes, cantaloupe, apples, and even pears. Personally, I like all of these without anything on them – however, I did put pepper on cantaloupe once (just to see if my mother was as whacky as I suspected at time – I was about 12) and it was actually pretty good. I prefer it completely naked, however. I’ve also put pepper on tomatoes, but I prefer fresh basil or rosemary.
My daughter Brittany puts pepper on just about everything as well. She never adds salt to potatoes of any kind, but the pepper rains down like a black thunderstorm. Again, (in an effort to gauge her whackiness – my age isn’t available at this time), I tried salt on some oven-baked fries (the good Lord knows they needed something) and I was very pleasantly surprised. It was all they needed and the salt stayed on the shelf.
The best advice available is this: To cut back on salt….. cut back on salt. Make a conscious effort to avoid processed foods that boast a lot of salt and try to use your salt shaker less often. Remember, you aren’t trying to eliminate salt completely from your diet! You’re simply trying to cut back.