Barbara’s Bulletin: Salt Surplus in Western diet

January 22, 2010 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

It’s easy to get carried away with salt. Although salt consumption is necessary to maintain the various functions of our body, it also just makes food taste good. A study published this week by scientists from the New England Journal of Medicine featured in New York Times reports that eating just ½ teaspoon less salt a day would greatly lower rates of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Eating less salt may even be as important to reducing the risk of heart disease as preventing obesity, lowering cholesterol, and quitting smoking. The study points out that reducing salt intake is particularly important for populations at high risk for chronic diseases like black people, individuals with hypertension, and the elderly.

Surprisingly, adding a pinch of salt during food prep or sprinkling it on at the dinner table is not really the problem. Most of our excess salt intake comes from the ready-to-eat, processed foods or restaurant fare that have become staples of the American diet. This over-salting problem has gotten so out of hand that the government has decided to get involved. New York City introduced a plan just last week to cut the amount of salt used by food manufacturers and popular restaurant chains by 25% over the next five years. And the Food and Drug Administration is now considering changing salt’s position on food nutrition labels from a safe, normal additive to something that would require detailed information about its health effects.

While we consumers wait to see if the government enacts stricter labeling and guidelines on salt intake, try to be mindful when you read food labels for salt content, or better yet, cut back on your intake of processed foods. Cooking at home is a great way to control the levels of salt in your food. If you would like more information on how to cut down on salt in your diet, check out the DASH diet for helpful hints. As with any food, moderation is the key.

Entry filed under: Nutrition in the News. Tags: .

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