Fighting the Salt Addiction

Reader Contribution by Joan Pritchard
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Recently a cartoon showed a woman entering a rather dark room with a light bulb hanging from the ceiling. Her husband is sitting at a table in front of a small pile of white substance, suggesting that he was about to consume it. The wife says, “Oh, I’m so glad it is only salt. I thought it was cocaine.”

Not such a funny cartoon really. In fact, not funny at all to a person who enjoys the flavor of salt and feels craving without it. Fortunately, I was not at that point when my doctor asked me two years ago to reduce the amount of sodium in my diet in the hope that we could avoid increased medication for high blood pressure. One wouldn’t think that would be as difficult as it really is for most of us.

Photo: Fotolia/Africa Studio

Some days I feel I am making little progress in my efforts to reduce sodium. Sodium seems to be in the most unlikely of products, and if the sodium is reduced, one can bet the sugar content is up. It takes forever to shop for food if one is reading labels properly, but I do believe my skills and understanding are improving.

Of course, one clue is to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I do that. I buy organic when possible and even find some vegetables in cans with no-salt added. The most difficult canned product to find with little sodium is soup, so now I do try to make my own.

Processing seems to be the culprit. Why is it that even the most unlikely product contains sodium. Breakfast cereal? Really?

It turns out that companies add sodium to products for several reasons. First, salt is a preservative and it extends shelf life of the product. Second, the addition of salt can reduce the growth of food-borne pathogens. Third, it improves the taste by binding the ingredients and functions as a stabilizer. It also enhances the colors of foods.

So with all those benefits of adding salt, it makes the product last longer on the shelf and is more profitable to the company – a win-win for the company. Unfortunately, the product is not so good for people. The more processed the food is, the worse it is for you.

While the recommended intake is 1,500 mg daily, I don’t even like to think of the effect of overindulging – i.e., stroke and weight gain. These are certainly not attractive in my mind.

So I keep trying and today I jumped up and down in the aisle of my discount pharmacy when I found “Uncle Rays No-Salt-Added Potato Chips.” I expected them to taste like wood chips, but they don’t. They are really quite tasty.

In fact, they were so good I went to the company website and checked out the company. It isn’t a large company and I doubt it will put Frito-Lay out of business, but for a gal who has worked so hard on reducing sodium, I was really pleased to find one of my favorite foods without the salt. Thanks, Uncle Ray.

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