Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
– Nelson Mandela
My last post talked about sugar cravings. Today, I have a few notes about salt. Now, I don’t really like salty foods, and I don’t use it much when I cook. However, I do have family members who have serious salt cravings.
What is Salt?
Common table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is one of the oldest and most widely used food seasonings. It also plays an important role in the preservation of foods.
Salt is a mineral that may be obtained through the evaporation of sea water. It can also be mined conventionally like other minerals such as gold.
Are Salt and Sodium The Same Thing?
Salt and sodium are not exactly the same thing. Table salt contains sodium. 1 teaspoon of salt contains roughly 1/2 teaspoon of sodium.
1 tsp contains about 6 grams of salt.
6 grams of salt contains about 2400 mg of sodium.
How Much Is Too Much?
We all need salt in our diet. Among other things, it is involved in regulating fluid levels in our bodies. However, too much salt can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure. In Canada, the recommendation is that people over 14 years old should not consume more than 2300 mg of sodium per day. This is considered to be the upper limit of intake without causing health problems. An average recommendation would be between 1000 and 1500 mg per day.
A 2004 survey performed for Health Canada showed that over 85% of men and 60 to 80% of women had sodium intakes exceeding the upper limit of the daily recommended intake of sodium. In fact, it is estimated that the average Canadian consumes 3400 mg of sodium per day! That works out to a little more that a teaspoon of salt per day, and over 4 pounds per year!
Why Do We Eat So Much Salt?
There are cases where people crave salt because of disease or lack of nutrients, but the simple and most common answer that we are just used to eating too much of it. In North America, much of our diet comes from pre-packaged processed foods. These foods generally have very high levels of sodium. Sodium helps preserve the food by preventing the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds. It brings out the flavours in food while at the same time disguising metallic and/or chemical after tastes. It also reduces the perception of dryness in foods like pretzels or crackers.
We have gotten use to the flavour of salt in our food. When the amount is reduced, our food tastes bland. Experts have said that we have gotten so use to salt that the only way to reduce the amount we consume is to wean ourselves off slowly.
Four Ways To Reduce Sodium In Your Diet:
1.) Eat more fresh foods.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, and unprocessed grains contain very little sodium.
2.) Check the nutrition labels.
Choose foods that have lower sodium content.
3.) When dining out, order dressings and sauces on the side.
Condiments generally have high sodium levels. When you order them on the side, you can control how much you eat.
4.) Use other food seasonings.
Herbs, spices, lemon and other flavourings work really well, especially if you want to make up some blends of your favourites.
Examples of some herbs and spices to include
- Onion powder,
- Garlic powder,
- Black pepper,
- Italian seasoning,
Do you eat too much salt? Do you have a favourite alternative? Please let me know.