In ancient times salt was highly valued. Some even consider it one of the essential founding elements of civilization. Salt enabled people to preserve food, meaning you weren’t dependent on seasonal production but could keep something for much longer periods of time. And because you were able to preserve food it meant you could go on long journeys and explore the world.
Pretty cool past. Unfortunately its present isn’t so cool. Today salt is considered one of the biggest threats to the health of ordinary working men and women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine out of ten Americans consume too much salt. I’m guessing the numbers are pretty much the same throughout western Europe too.
Why is that bad?
According to the CDC too much salt in the diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, which can increase the risk of death, which can decrease the odds you are going to be around to enjoy some of your favorite salty snacks. They’re advising people to cut back on their salt intake. And now they have published a list of the ten most common sources of salt in our diet, to help us figure out where we can cut back.
The top ten are:
1) Bread and rolls (7.4 percent of overall salt consumption) and if that surprises you then you haven’t looked at the breakdown of all the stuff that’s in most bread sold in stores these days
2) Cold cuts and cured meats (5.1%)
3) Pizza (4.9%)
4) Fresh and processed poultry (4.5%)
5) Soups (4.3%)
6) Sandwiches and burgers (4.0%)
7) Cheese (3.8%)
Pasta dishes – such as spaghetti with meat sauce (3.3%)
9) Meat dishes – such as meat loaf with tomato sauce (3.2%)
10) Savory snacks such as chips and pretzels (3.1%)
What’s the big deal!
So, you might look at that list and think well, each one of those is a relatively small percentage of a person’s diet so it can’t be that bad for you. But if you eat some of each one every day or every few days, they quickly add up. You might have soup for lunch with some bread, a few chips or pretzels mid-afternoon for a snack, pizza or pasta of meatloaf for dinner, and before you know it you are consuming way more salt than you need.
The average American eats 3,266 mg of salt a day. The recommended maximum is 2,300 mg. That’s almost one thousand milligrams less. Do that day after day, week after week, month after month and you can see how it easily adds up into one big problem.
The good news is that all of those items are made/manufactured/processed ones and you can easily avoid them or at least limit how much of them you eat. Instead of canned soup make your own – it really doesn’t take long. Instead of store-bought meat loaf make your own and go lightly on the salt.
In most cases we don’t need salt on foods, they already have so much already. But most of us are just in the habit of unthinkingly sprinkling it on any dish we have – without even tasting it first.