Are You Consuming Too Much Salt?

While the human body, having emerged from the primordial oceans eons ago, requires salt for good health, the average American diet contains far more salt than is generally healthy.

Where does all the salt in our diet come from? If you’ve ever felt thirsty after eating prepared food from the supermarket deli or after a take-out dinner, it’s because fast and prepared foods tend to use a lot of salt to make the dishes taste better. Detecting how much salt you are consuming is not always easy. Salt amounts can be easily controlled in dishes made from scratch at home, but heavily processed and prepared foods are another story.  There are the obvious culprits — chips, processed meats, salamis, and bacon, for example — but excess salt also lurks in canned foods, cheese, sweets, pastries, and even in foods that appear to be healthy like whole-grain cereals, granola, and canned beans.

To better understand how much sodium you’re consuming per serving, AICR recommends a careful reading of the nutritional labels on all packaged foods. This can help to bring consumption in line with the recommended daily allowance of 2,300 mg of sodium or 1 level teaspoon of salt per day.

A simple rule of thumb to reach this goal: Don’t eat too many processed or prepared foods; don’t get too many take-out dinners, as convenient as they may be; read food labels; and whenever possible, cook from scratch.

Chef Tips

There are many different types of salt to buy, the most common being table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt.

  • Table salt is a highly refined salt enriched with iodine that is usually laced with chemical additives to stop it from clumping in damp conditions.
  • Kosher salt is a flaky, coarse-grained salt that is less refined than table salt and additive-free.
  • Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater and contains trace minerals, which may enhance its nutritional properties and taste. There are many different types of sea salt from fine white to coarse grey, and all are worth a try. But even with a natural product from the sea, salt is still salt and should be used sparingly

We recommend using kosher salt or fine sea salt for cooking, and the more expensive grey sea salts as a condiment. Always correct the seasoning of your dishes toward the end of cooking. You can always add salt, but once it’s there, you can’t take it out. A pinch of salt added to vegetables as you sauté them will bring out their juices and flavor. Salt is added to some marinades for animal proteins because it can help trap moisture and flavor during the cooking process.

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