Last week, we started the series on salt in our diet. This week, we will continue expounding on this topic. As mentioned last week, 75% of the salt we consume everyday does not come from our salt shaker in the kitchen. It is in the processed that we eat and drink. Look at the labels of the following items you have in your fridge or kitchen pantry:
- Breakfast cereals
- Mineral water
Now, you wouldn’t associate these food items with salt, right?
Well, actually they do contain small amounts of salt. My bottle of Evian contains 6.5 mg sodium per liter. My low-fat margarine contains 0.04 g of sodium per 100 g.
But the majority of your salt intake most probably comes from the canned soup, from the chips, or from the burger or pizza you had for lunch.
So why do processed foods contain lost of salt? Researchers give the following probable reasons:
- In developing countries where refrigeration is a problem, salt is used as food preservative.
- In the developed world, “salt makes cheap, unpalatable food edible at no cost”, according to Queen Mary University of London, UK.
- Salt in many meat products bind in water to increase product weight.
- Salty food makes one thirsty, thus promoting the consumption of soft drinks. It is no accident that large snack firms manufacture salty snacks as well as beverages.
Would reducing salt in the food decrease food consumption, thus translating to a loss for food companies? No, according to the researchers. Dietary salt policies expert Dr Feng J He of Queen Mary University explains:
…food companies should have nothing to fear from gradually reducing the salt content of foods… Indeed, the opposite is true: if people eat more healthily, they will live longer and there will be an increased number of consumers.
In fact, some food companies think more progressively and have already initiated low-salt food products. An example is Campbell’s, an American icon when it comes to canned soup. Yet, despite its long history and tradition that dates back to the 1930s, Campbell’s was very open to innovation when it decided to lower the sodium levels in many of its soup brands. The change apparently came about from a 2003 survey of Campbell’s employees themselves which showed more than 50% of employees not serving Campbell’s soup at home partly because of salt concerns.
The world’s biggest soup maker now offers wide range of the so-called heart-healthy soups which are low fat, low cholesterol and lower in sodium. These products are also the proud holder of the heart-check mark of the American Heart Association.
To check for sodium content of your food, processed or otherwise, check out the following:
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- Food Data Chart of the Healthy Eating Club
- Lehigh Valley Hospital Health Network
- Fat Free Kitchen