Monday, May 31, 2010


This New York Times Article, The Hard Sell on Salt, was very interesting to me.

There's been a lot of talk about salt reduction lately. Of course, many doctors still tell people to cut back on salt intake if they have high blood pressure.

However, many physicians now know that this tactic only works on a small percentage of salt-sensitive people.

Here's a quote from Mary Dan Eades, MD, on the issue:

Even if the point is to reduce high blood pressure, only a tiny minority of people who have elevated blood pressure have what’s called “salt sensitive” hypertension. For the rest, cutting sodium has been shown not only not to help but possibly to be downright detrimental.


Now I happen to think that Mary Dan Eades is a pretty smart cookie. I started to do my own research into studies with salt, and to be honest, there are just too many for me to do a quick rundown.

But I think the New York Times article really says it all, without drawing a more obvious conclusion.

Personally, I happen to think that upwards of 3000 mg of sodium chloride per day is excessive, although not in and of itself unhealthy. So what's the big deal about?

Here's a very interesting passage from that NY Times article:

The power that salt holds over processed foods can be seen in an American snack icon, the Cheez-It.

At the company’s laboratories in Battle Creek, Mich., a Kellogg vice president and food scientist, John Kepplinger, ticked off the ways salt makes its little square cracker work.

Salt sprinkled on top gives the tongue a quick buzz. More salt in the cheese adds crunch. Still more in the dough blocks the tang that develops during fermentation. In all, a generous cup of Cheez-Its delivers one-third of the daily amount of sodium recommended for most Americans.

As a demonstration, Kellogg prepared some of its biggest sellers with most of the salt removed. The Cheez-It fell apart in surprising ways. The golden yellow hue faded. The crackers became sticky when chewed, and the mash packed onto the teeth. The taste was not merely bland but medicinal.

“I really get the bitter on that,” the company’s spokeswoman, J. Adaire Putnam, said with a wince as she watched Mr. Kepplinger struggle to swallow.

They moved on to Corn Flakes. Without salt the cereal tasted metallic. The Eggo waffles evoked stale straw. The butter flavor in the Keebler Light Buttery Crackers, which have no actual butter, simply disappeared.

In that demonstration, Kellogg basically admitted that some of their most popular, heavily processed foods taste like garbage without salt.

And, well, you know how I feel about processed food, right?

The unvarnished truth is that people need to eat less processed foods. Salt hides the truth from them, and really, that's its only crime, if you're going to assign one.

Salt makes unhealthy foods palatable, and that's why it's so widely used.

So if you cut down on unhealthy processed foods, you are automatically consuming a whole lot less sodium, no matter how much you sprinkle on the rest of what you eat.

Eat less processed foods. The rest will take care of itself.


The Mistress of the Book of Destiny said...

Not too curious side effect of cutting processed food from your diet: you apparently lose 10 pounds in the first month. The Girlfriend and I have a rule that there are to be no processed junk foods (or minimal ones) and low and behold, we go to visit family and everyone was like "you've lost weight!"

Mrs. Ed said...

"Salt makes unhealthy foods palatable, and that's why it's so widely used."

I just think you summed up the entire salt issue in one sentence!