Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Perils of Salt

Just finished writing an article about sugar myths and realities. Learned a lot, as usual--that's one of the benefits (since money isn't!) of writing for a living. I learn a lot from the research I do for articles.
The Internet is not buzzing so much about sugar and HFCS any more. Now it's salt. Oh, yes. We Americans over-indulge. In sugar. In fat. In calories. In salt. No doubt about it. No arguments here. I'm thinking salt is more of a danger than the others, though. So last night while cooking dinner I really tried to pay attention to how much salt I use. Holy shit. A lot.
First, I don't measure even when I'm following a recipe. And you know how the TV chefs are always telling us to salt as we go along-salt the onions softening in the oil, salt the water liberally before you add the pasta, etc. So I sprinkle and dash and dump salt into everything. And, let's face, salt makes food taste better. Especially chocolate. For you non believers, just add a few crystals the next time you bite into a chocolate candy and you'll see how salt enhances the flavor of chocolate.
Salt is the darling of the chefs and apparently the bane of the medical community right now.
How to cut down on salt? The recommendations are lame just like they are for cutting back on sugar. You've just got to "retrain" your taste buds. Easier said than done. Even if you don't think you "like" salt, you do. Commercially prepared foods, whether canned, frozen, or restaurant food, is very heavily salted. We've grown accustomed to the taste.
I tend to think lots of restaurant food is too salty for my palate but give me one of those fabulous NY soft pretzels rolled in salt and I'm in heaven. The bland starchy pretzel is made very special by the salty crust.
As much as I love french fries, without salt I probably wouldn't eat as many (I'd still eat them...just not as many).
A burger. Love a good rare fatty burger. But without salt, I'd probably pass it up.
Chicken soup is flat without salt. And no amount of herbs can change that.
People, like me, who like chips probably like them for the salt (and the crunch).
Overcoming a salt habit is going to be a lot harder than overcoming a sugar habit.
I'll probably start out by not salting during cooking but salting at the table because right now I do both. I think salting at the table is a better idea because the salt will be more prominent since it will not be dissoved into the food. I don't eat many packaged foods so those don't contribute a lot to my salt intake. Restaurant meals are going to be a challenge. It's not like I can ask the chef to not add salt! How can we manage that one if we eat out a lot? It's easy to control what we do at home. But since most of us eat lots of our meals away from home, it's going to be a challenge.

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