Pass the Salt, Please!


You know what I’m getting tired of? America’s obsession with eating too much salt.

Today’s rant was spurred by an article in my Sunday paper’s Parade magazine called “Don’t Pass the Salt, Please.”

As predicted, the main point of my refute was finally acknowledged over halfway into the article, after all the do’s and don’ts and statistics common in articles written to send fear into the average reader: “The trouble is, 75% to 80% of dietary salt in the U.S. is ‘hidden’ in processed foods….”

Like most people in the U.S., I’ve been “trained” by our culture to reduce my salt intake so I’d avoid adding it when I’m cooking, leaving it up to the eater to add it later. Then I started wondering why my homemade food didn’t have the flavor I thought it should. And I started having salt cravings, and wondering why it took half a bag of potato chips to fulfill them.

I think it was during my culinary vacation in Tuscany, Italy, where we used lots of salt on everything, that I finally realized I may have been under-salting my food. Why? Because I make my own food whenever possible and avoid processed food at all costs. Is it possible I’ve actually been salt deprived?

The article’s statistics claim “healthy adults need no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of table salt).” With all the pinches I add along the way, I’m sure they easily add up to a solid teaspoon–maybe more. Because I don’t have a concern with high blood pressure (maybe because I’ve been under-salted?!), I bet I could eat more than that.

I’m just getting tired of all the scare tactics being used in articles like the one in Parade magazine–from coronary disease, to stroke to heart attacks, as well as hypertension–when the real issue is the availability (and low cost) of processed food in this country.

While the writer (a doctor) acknowledges that “some fast-food meals contain nearly triple the salt recommended for an entire day” and “boxed and canned foods also pack it in, because salt adds flavor and acts as a preservative,” he never says avoid eating processed foods. Just “check labels on all food products, including dairy, for sodium content, and be aware of how much is recommended for you.” And “keep the salt shaker at bay, and flavor food with pepper, spices, herbs, or lemon juice instead. When dining out, ask that your dish be prepared with less or no salt.”

Once again, the public is receiving misinformation. Avoiding salt is simply a band-aid for the issue at hand: Our food system is broken. What most people are eating in this country is crap. With lots of salt.

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One response to “Pass the Salt, Please!

  1. Hear, hear!

    Well said, Marcia. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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