The American heart Association recommends that people consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day which is the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. Certain segments of the population should eat less than 1,500 mg per day including those with high blood pressure, African Americans and middle aged as well as older adults.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest calls salt “the forgotten killer” and states that if Americans cut their salt intake by half that it would save about 150,000 lives per year. High levels of salt in the diet increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
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A certain amount of salt is necessary in our diet. Most of our salt intake (as much as 75%) is from processed foods such as canned tomato sauces (when opened with a can opener), soups, prepared mixes and frozen pizzas (it’s much better to make your own at home in your pizza oven). Fast food establishments use a lot of processed material in the preparation of meals for their customers so add their items to the list as well.
It’s true that as a society we are addicted to salt but the craving can change rapidly. If we begin to use food with much less salt it actually starts to taste good, if not better, after just a week or so. It’s virtually impossible to remove all salt from the diet and we don’t want to do that anyway. Read food labels and you’ll be surprised how much salt is in not just canned and frozen foods but other packaged food such as cereal.
If a surplus of salt beyond our basic needs is so bad for us why do we use it in baking and cooking?
Salt is a key ingredient in the baking process. Besides the flavor contribution it influences the yeast fermentation process by slowing down the chemical reactions that occur in the dough. Try baking without salt. You’ll find that the baked goods have large air pockets and that bread will rise in the oven but will collapse into an unsuitable thickness when removing. Salt substitutes that include sodium chloride such As Morton “s Lite Salt Mixture can be successfully utilized and contain about 50% less sodium relative to regular salt.
It is a common misconception that salt is used to boil water for pasta in order to significantly increase the boiling temperature of the water. It does increase the temperature of the water but only slightly. It takes as much as over an ounce of salt (over 6 teaspoons) to increase the boiling point by one degree Fahrenheit. Since most pasta recipes call for adding only one teaspoon of salt to the water it’s apparent that the difference in temperature will be insignificant.
Conduct an experiment and cook pasta in salted water and compare to cooking in unsalted water. You’ll discover that the pasta in the unsalted water has a flat taste. Cooks have discovered after years of making and cooking pasta that cooking in salt water is the ideal means of bringing out the flavor and it can’t be duplicated after the fact by adding salt after cooking. This same logic applies to cooking any dish. The salt will blend and meld better if used while cooking. Of course salt is not as critical in the cooking process as it is in the baking process so it is appropriate to reduce salt and try combinations of herbs and spices. Garlic, parsley, sesame, thyme, lemon and pepper are all suitable lower sodium alternatives.
(Here are some great garlic presses for you!)
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