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Salt and you

January 22, 2010

When I told you about my guilty pleasures (wine, cheese, bacon, All My Children, cooking with butter and not margarine), I probably should have mentioned the worst one I am a culprit of—salty food (as if the bacon and cheese didn’t give that away).

What I mean is that….I like things salty. Plain tator tot? Ick. Add tons of salt. Chicken and rice? Add salt. Steamed veggies? Salt please. I’d have to say that I take one of my mother’s most famous cooking expressions, “Salt and pepper is what makes food taste like food” (she is so wise), to the limit.

I salt almost everything.

I know, I know. I’m going to have high blood pressure. It’s bad for your heart. Blah blah.

OK, so maybe I shouldn’t say blah blah, especially in light of this article from the New York Times about how bad it really, REALLY is for you.

If everyone consumed half a teaspoon less salt per day, there would be between 54,000 and 99,000 fewer heart attacks each year and between 44,000 and 92,000 fewer deaths, according to the study, which was conducted by scientists at University of California San Francisco, Stanford University Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center.

Yikes.

What’s really scary though is not how much salt you sprinkle on your french fries or whether you get the salt bagel at the breakfast place.

What’s scary is the secret salt that finds you in restaurants.

Take Panera Bread, for example. Who doesn’t love their sammies and soups? A curious Laura once looked up the nutrition info on the Panera Web site to my shock and horror. Check this out:

Do you see that? In the one bowl of soup, you’ve got 2210 mg of sodium. I love how they don’t even do a percent daily value for you, because you know why? It’s 99%. (The AHA recommends no more than 2300 mgs per day).

Even the low-fat Chicken Noodle is loaded with sodium:

And this isn’t even to mention if you went and got a You Pick Two with the bowl of soup and your favorite sandwich.

My point isn’t to make you sad or mad at me for showing you what you’re eating when you go out to lunch, just to acknowledge that there might be something to the proposed FDA regulations about salt content in food. Most of the salt humans ingest is from preservatives used in canned or packaged foods (check out the back of that Lean Cuisine the next time you microwave it). Maybe we DO need regulations to either advertise high-sodium foods better or cut out some of the salt.

Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. With heart disease the number one cause of death for women, it might be prudent to evaluate the risk factors and make steps to reduce their effects.

Even if all I really want is a salt lick.

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