Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Salt Experiment

We have heard many times that Americans have too much salt in their diet.  Though approximately 1500 mg is needed each day for bodily function, too much of a good thing can cause other problems.  I never paid much attention to all the talk because I think I eat less salt than most people since I rarely use or consume processed foods and never eat canned vegetables.  Salt is likely used by food manufacturers not to make you unhealthy but rather to extend food shelf life.  If you look back to days of crossing the Atlantic in sail boats, the trip was long and in order to extend the shelf life of meat and fish, it was dried and salted.
Hearing the news of the recent reduction in the daily recommended needed, I got wondering exactly how much salt do I eat? And more importantly, how much am I feeding my family.
So I am setting out to do an experiment.  I will assume that 3/4 tsp a day is about what we should each eat.  I cook and salt our food with kosher salt.  I will place 3/4 tsp for each of us in separate bowls.  I am going to label the bowls.  If we want to salt our food, we will use our individual bowls.  When I cook something the 3 of us will eat, I will take 1/3 from each bowl.   If we are eating something that has salt listed on the label, I will record that as well.  I am very curious to find out how this works out.
Here is an interesting fact.  On my package of Morton Course Kosher Salt, I found a 1/4 tsp of Salt has 480mg of sodium.  I wanted to find out if all salts were created equally and in researching Table Salt, found 1/4 tsp has 600mg of sodium.  Making a change to Kosher Salt can reduce your intake right off the bat.
When cooking, try salting your food after it's cooked.  We all want to taste salt, so if it is salted to hit your tongue first, you'll need less.
As a test, I salted very lightly, the bottom slice of bread for a turkey breast and tomato sandwich so it would hit my tongue rather than the roof of my mouth and what a difference.  I tasted the salt first.
If you are on a low salt diet it doesn't mean a no-flavor diet.  Try flavoring with non salt flavorings like spices, herbs, ginger, garlic,and pepper to name a few.

I am finding that we eat very little salt.  I decided to continue this process for a 7 day period.  This way I can better account for weekends vs. week days when we are home for more meals.

I am proud to say that after a week, we each consumed under 3/4 tsp of Kosher Salt per person for the entire week.  I didn't bake which I normally do, that would be about 1 tsp for a recipe and then of course that is divided by 3.  Therefore, the main source of sodium we are getting is coming from things like Wheat Bread, Cheese, Ketchup and Mustard, Salty Chips or Store bought Cookies that are in our diet.  I drink Hot Chocolate in my coffee and surprisingly there is sodium in it.  I am getting approximately 1/3 (based on 1500mg sodium a day) of the daily allowance there.  So I would say we are in very good shape as far as sodium is concerned.
From March through October we have extremely high temperatures and all sweat quite a bit.  We all drink gatorade which contains sodium but on the other hand our daily requirement would be increased as well.
I am confident we are not in the group of Americans consuming too much sodium, if anything, we are under the daily requirement.
You should switch to Kosher Salt to reduce your intake.  Another suggestion is to use salt in pinches to "finish" your food rather than salting it while it is cooking.  If you begin to read labels you will begin to feel offended by the sodium content and will automatically avoid high sodium products, big culprit, Kraft Mac and Cheese.
If you are concerned, conduct your own experiment with your family.  Teaching your kids these good habits will be good for everyone's health!  Please feel free to post a comment as to your findings.

1 comment:

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