Please don’t pass the salt

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By: Maria Lamagna <mlamagna@hilite.org>

As the holiday season comes around again, freshman Nathan “Paco” Krieger prepares his taste buds. Krieger said that his whole family helps to prepare the meals they have for Thanksgiving and Christmas and some of his favorite dishes include turkey, smoked ham and taco rolls.

While traditional and delicious, Krieger admitted that his favorite dishes probably are not the healthiest. “They’re unbelievably fattening,” he said. “Somehow I keep myself thin.”

But Krieger said he doesn’t worry about an extremely unhealthy ingredient that all of his favorite dishes have in common. While he thinks about the fat and the calories they contain, he said he never considers the large amount of sodium in all of them.

“Unless something tastes salty, I don’t think about how much salt it has in it. It seems like no one worries about (salt in food) except super health freaks,” he said.
Krieger may be right. According to the article “Do You Salt Before You Taste Your Food?” from Itsasurvey.com, a recent survey conducted by the Mrs. Dash company indicated surprising results. The company found out that 47 percent of Americans are unaware of the daily recommended sodium intake and 37 percent of Americans automatically salt their food before they even taste it.

According to Nancy Hatch, family and consumer science teacher, who teaches classes such as Orientation to Nutrition and Wellness, over-salting can have harmful results. “Too much sodium can result in high blood pressure. You should consume less than 2,400 mg of sodium a day, which is about one teaspoon,” Hatch said.

The article said that consuming too much salt can have other harmful effects. Some of them are even cosmetic. In addition to contributing to high blood pressure, high sodium can lead to dehydration, which can cause people to be bloated and have a “puffy” look.

Hatch said that in addition to high blood pressure, health experts have linked high salt consumption to other dangerous long-term effects. Some of these, due to sodium-related complications, include asthma, heartburn, osteoporosis and edema.

Still, many people consume foods without realizing the high salt content. Hatch said that some especially salty foods people consume include processed foods, canned soups, soda and ketchup. She also said that some foods are surprisingly salty, such as McDonald’s milkshakes which contain more salt than their French fries.

Some other hidden dangers are foods which are advertised as healthy but overcompensate for the reduced calories with large doses of salt. For example, Lean Cuisine meals, Ramen noodles and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese are quick to make and relatively low in fat and calories. However, each of these dishes contains well over 25 percent of the recommended sodium intake for the day.

Hatch said she believes there are several reasons why people focus on cutting fat and calories but don’t always think about the huge amounts of salt.

“First, I think there’s more advertising and media hype about fat and calories,” she said. “Also, fat and calories show up as extra pounds and you can physically see that, whereas too much sodium results in high blood pressure which you can’t see.”

Hatch said there are several alternatives to sodium. “Salt adds flavor to food. In order to still have flavor without the sodium, you can try adding fresh herbs or spices to your dishes,” she said. The article from Itsasurvey.com also suggested substituting salt with acids like vinegar and lemon juice and buying natural ingredients and adding your own seasoning as healthy options.

With the holidays approaching, Hatch said people should be especially careful about how much salt they consume.

“Holidays are tough times to be careful of what you’re eating,” she said. “Read labels to know what you’re consuming and maybe prepare home-cooked food so you can control the amount of salt going into your food.”

Krieger said he would be willing to try some healthy alternatives to sodium during the holidays, but it will be tough. “All I focus on,” he said, “is eating what I want when I want.”

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