In the News: Low Sodium Recommendations and Recipes

| 2/24/2011 2:52:12 PM

L.HoltThe new 2010 Dietary Guidelines, revealed at the end of January, have a few changes in store for the recommended diets of the America populace. One of the most difficult recommendations to abide by may be the new salt restrictions. According to a recent Washington Post article, the new recommended salt dosage calls for nearly half of the American public (any at risk for high blood pressure or other health problems) to limit themselves to 1,500 milligrams of salt each day (about 2/3 of a teaspoon). The current average salt consumption among Americans over the age of 2 is 3,400 milligrams daily.

The stated reason for this change is that high levels of sodium intake have been linked to significant health risks. According to another article, the Salt Institute has questioned that link and argues that this new reduced sodium intake may actually have negative health effects as people attempt to eat more food overall in order to meet their accustomed desire for salt.

It’s true that sodium is important to the daily functions of the human body, but the current average American diet, full of restaurant and heavily-processed foods, contains excessively high amounts of sodium. Salt has been so highly valued as to be a cause for war in the last several hundred years of human history, but it’s probably safe to say that the current era marks a peak of actual salt consumption. Part of the reason for this is that we have trained our palates to recognize and crave salt as a primary source of flavor. Washington Post's Tim Carman’s attempt to stick to the new low-sodium guidelines revealed a further complication: very few people actually know how much salt they could be consuming. This lack of awareness extends even to those who prepare the food, such as chefs and restaurant employees. During his week-long effort, Mr. Carman found that he missed the taste of salt with nearly every bite he took and that eating out was nearly impossible—even if he could get a meal with no or only a very tiny amount of salt, it did not have the flavor he wanted. He reports that he often felt hungry, as he was eating less in order to meet the limits, just as the Salt Institute argues—but he says, in retrospect, that such hunger could probably have been abated by an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables (another of the new guidelines).

The new USDA guidelines urge Americans to restrict their salt intake per day.
Photo by Dubravko Sorić/Courtesy Flickr

If you are concerned about the health risks sodium can pose, either by itself through the refining process, the best way to control your salt intake is cooking at home with herbs, spices, citrus juices and unsalted stocks and rubs. Check out this article for no-salt herbal seasoning recipes to use on any dish, or try these low sodium and salt-free herbal recipes.

• Hickory Smoked Leg of Lamb with Basil/Mint Pesto
• Zesty Vegetables 
• New Potatoes with Parsley-Dill Filling 
• Herbed Bagel Chips
• Herbed Burgers
• Herb-encrusted Chicken Thighs
• Rosemary Pork Chops

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