Over the Salt

Mindful choices for healthy and low sodium cooking

How much is too much salt?

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SaltShakerWe say there’s too much salt in prepared food, but how much is too much? For a person who has had a heart attack, a low salt diet is one where there is a maximum of 1500-2000mg of salt a day. For context, a teaspoon is about 2300mg of salt.

What surprised me most, I think, is that we thought we were eating healthy food. Organic soups (canned), vegetarian dishes from our favorite Thai, Indian, Chinese and Mexican restaurants were frequent visitors to our table, especially during busy weekdays. However, we’ve since realized that those delicious recipes had terrible loads of harmful salt in them. Canned chili was 920mg a serving, however, that was counted as 2 servings per can; a single can was 1840mg of salt. A jar of curry sauce says 400mg per serving, which sounds great until you read more closely, and realize the small jar has 6 or 8 servings per jar. Corn bread is 200mg a 2″ square, a slice of bread can be up to 400mg a slice, and a slice of pie between 200mg and 400mg depending on the number of servings you cut.

We have turned into much more careful readers. We examine every label to figure the amount of servings and divide to find the actual numbers per container. As we’re doing the math with the very real consideration of avoiding another heart attack, theres some pressure to pay attention. Very early we determined that a main meal can have a maximum of 500mg, and we would stay below the 1000mg as a total per day most days. That’s turned out to be a good thing, both for Raven (who had the heart attack) and for me (who has dropped a bunch of pounds water weight).

Salt retains water. Reducing salt, reduces water weight gain. The body does not have to work so hard to deal with the extra water. And the heart, which is a pump, needs to work less hard to pump that water around. Seems simple enough. In a person with a healthy heart, less water means more energy, and less weight.

What I’ve learned from this? There’s too much hidden salt in mystery food, so we’ll take the mystery out of it and cook our own food. Much of it will have no salt at all, and is “free food”, that is free from salt. To make it tasty, we add spices, balance the flavors and eat fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance. Baking our own goodies is a fun way to add love to the process.

I still have my artisan salts from the Murray River, Tibetan Pink, Salish Black and Hawaiian salts. I use them occasionally as a finishing touch for dishes, but only a few grains at a time. We’ve learned that we can have a little of anything we crave, and feel grateful that life and love continues to be rich and flavorful.

Article copyright Ria Loader 2013

Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

Author: Ria Loader

Artist, designer, web developer and writer. I work as a Senior Interaction Designer at Microsoft. My passionate hobbies include illustration, cooking, making and writing. I also like to tell stories about my fictional friends - my latest urban fantasy includes Library of Time and Child of Time in both kindle and paperback. I love the alchemy of cooking and the art of making.

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