Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

Hold the Salt

We eat too much salt. Simple but true. As a culture today, the developed world consumes a tremendous amount of sodium. It’s not just in the U.S., but the United Kingdom has had a campaign for about three years to convince people to reduce the amount of salt they consume. Most Asian diets are high in sodium as well, with almost every sauce, from soy sauce to fish sauce to hoisin, having added salt.

As a population it’s a major issue for policy makers to get folks to cut back from over 6000 milligrams (mg) (that’s 6 grams) of sodium per day (about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt) to the more reasonable 2400 mg. Tough to do, because there’s so much salt in the processed foods that Americans eat. A report this week by the Council on Science and Public Health estimates that such a lowering of salt intake might save 150,000 lives each year.

That’s a lot of your friends, family and co-workers.

Step number one to making this difference in your life is to take the processed food out of your life. If you want Mac and Cheese, make Mac and Cheese. Cooking your own fresh food from scratch takes a little more time, but it tastes so much better and it’s so much better for you. If you’re used to frozen or packaged meals, snagging fast food for dinner, or eating on the run, start slowly by making just two meals per week at home. Beyond the meals on this website, there are so many recipes out there that anyone can cook easily.

Step number two is that when you do eat packaged or processed foods, pay attention to the salt. The sodium content is the one item on the Nutrition Facts label that isn’t confusing. There’s no high fat, low-carb, low-fat, Mediterranean, Atkins, South Beach or other “diet” to worry about. Simply eat less sodium and you’ll likely prolong your life. Your goal should be less than 3000 mg per day.

Step three: I know people who crave sodium but there’s been terrific research that shows that your salt taste buds do learn to want less. In effect, the more you saturate them the more you can’t taste how salty something is. For some this will mean working a bit harder. (Interestingly, if you’re making fresh food, adding salt at the table and not while cooking makes food taste saltier and research shows that you’ll use less.)

Lastly, keep in mind that that the 2,400 mg per day recommendation is about 1 teaspoon salt. Measure your salt when you do cook. It’s easy and a simple step to being healthier.

Here’s a listing of lower-sodium recipes on the Dr. Gourmet web site.

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet
July 30, 2007

Last updated: 07/30/07