by Marion Nestle
Jul 2 2010

The latest on salt for the 4th of July

In preparation for eating over the 4th of July weekend, here’s what’s happening on the salt frontier.

The CDC says fewer than 10% of Americans meet sodium recommendations. Only 5.5% of adults who should be consuming low sodium diets(≤1,500 mg/day) actually do so.  Less than 20% of adults consume the amount currently recommended for healthy adults, ≤2,300 mg/day. Overall, only 9.6% of adults met their applicable recommended limit.

The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) says the U.K. is making great progress on reducing salt consumption. Even though UK salt intakes are still above the target of 6g/day after seven years of campaigning, FSA is happy about what the campaign achieved: a 10% reduction in average daily intakes from 9.5g/day to 8.6g/day.  This is substantial progress, given “the complexity of the task and the FSA’s modest budget.”

The New York Times explains part of the complexity: food industry resistance.  In an article titled, “The hard sell on salt” (May 29), the Times interviews food company executives who talk about why they must, must use salt and lots of it in processed foods.

The Salt Institute attacks the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report. The report recommends a limit of 1,500 mg/day sodium because 70% of the U.S. population is at risk of high blood pressure. According to Food Chemical News (June 16), the Salt Institute claims that reducing salt intake to recommended levels would only make the obesity epidemic worse: “Most nutritionists agree that reduced sodium in food preparations will very likely increase the obesity crisis because individuals will consume more calories just to satisfy their innate sodium appetite.”

Most?  I don’t think so.  Because 77% of salt (sodium chloride) is in processed and restaurant foods, I see the salt issue as one of consumer choice.  Consumers can always add salt to foods.  They cannot take it out.

Enjoy a happy, healthy, safe, and lower salt 4th of July!

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  • I find the 2010 Food Guidelines regarding sodium to be over reaching and missing the point. It is laughable that a standard is set to address the potential risks of potentially 70% of the population. That’s a lot of assuming.

    The critical problem with this thinking is assuming that telling the public to cut out the salt is going to have any different outcome than the last forty years. It is time to teach the public how to use salt, while food manufacturers and producers figure out how to season food effectively, not just as cheaply as possible. Using salt as a seasoning agent is supposed to be about bringing out the flavor of all ingredients, not just tasting more and more salty.

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  • Anthro

    I don’t eat processed food and not much restaurant food either. I try to be careful when I cook, but how much is 1500 mg? I have been working with the idea of 1/2 tsp/day, but not sure how much two or three shakes of a typical salt shaker actually is. I have noticed that when I eat at a restaurant I usually get very thirsty for the rest of the evening, no doubt from the unaccustomed dose of salt.

    I have noticed this with my dog as well–when she only eats her dog food, she drinks a little water after her meal, but if she gets any kind of commercial “treats” (something I discourage–but Dad loves to give her), she visits her water bowl several times and needs a refill to boot.

    Anyway, the question is: What’s a good way to be more precise about the use of salt at home? Should I put the 1/2 tsp in a little dish and pinch it out here and there? If I use a full tsp now and then, is there a huge harm in that?