The new diet pyramid, which is updated every five years, supports the health risk of excess salt in our diet. Americans consume too much salt in their daily diet. The Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments are advising consumers to “drastically cut daily salt intake”. If you want to begin a healthier eating plan, here are easy ways to reduce salt in your diet.
First, let’s look at why a balanced amount of salt is a good and necessary part of our daily diet.
Why Should we eat Salt?
Quite simply, without salt (sodium chloride), our body fluids become unbalanced. Secondly, salt serves as a preservative to inhibit growth of harmful bacteria in certain foods, such as meat, breads, butter and pickled products. During manufacturing, certain foods are processed with salt so that they remain safe for human consumption.
Let’s add it up. The origin of our daily salt intake includes: 1) processed foods 2) restaurant and fast foods 3) natural salt in food and 4) our salt shaker.
How Does Excess Salt Intake Damage Health?
High blood pressure results from excess salt intake. High blood pressure is a factor in 1) heart disease 2) heart failure 3) stroke 4) kidney failure and in worst case 5) death.
Who is at Risk from High Salt Intake?
The low-salt government guidelines target about half the American population, including but not limited to: 1) anyone 51 year of age or older 2) people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease and 3) ALL African Americans.
Everyone falling in this group of people are advised to reduce daily sodium consumption to about half of a teaspoon. All other people may continue to consume roughly one teaspoon of salt per day, unless restricted by their physician.
What are Easy Ways to Reduce Salt?
First, as consumers we must become conscious of the food we purchase, prepare and put in our mouth. Start by becoming a smart shopper.
Read food labels and select lower sodium varieties when possible. (The FDA requires that sodium content is listed on food labels.) Shop the store perimeter, and load your cart up with fresh fruits and veggies. Fresh foods are also potassium rich, which helps balance the bad effects of sodium.
As for food preparation, experiment with a variety of herbs and spices, to compensate for reduced salt. Use meat rubs that do not contain sodium. Black pepper, cumin, chili pepper, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, basil and ginger will liven up the blandest food. Make this a household rule: Thou Shalt not Shake Salt on Thy Food.
Eat slowly, eat mindfully. At first salt-less food may taste strange, but your taste buds will become accustomed and your little heart will bless you.
What About Salt Substitutes?
Check with your doctor before using a salt substitute. They contain potassium chloride, which may be harmful if you take certain medications or have a medical condition such as heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
Should the Government Regulate Dietary Salt?
At the present moment, the Feds will not join you for dinner. The Human Services Department will not hold you at gunpoint while you eat.
Instead, the government is sternly reprimanding the food industry for its current practice of “hidden salt” in our food. Current plans are to apply pressure to the food industry before the Food and Drug Administration takes steps to regulate dietary salt.
However, the prudent consumer, will heed these easy ways to reduce salt, not because the government “told you so”, but because you want to live.
Sources: CBS News – “Slash Your Salt Intake, Feds Urge”
Associated Press – “Gov’t Advising Americans to cut down on Salt”; FDA Consumer Updates “Lowering Salt in Your Diet”