Deadly White PowderWhat do you consider to be a deadly white powder? Obvious toxic substances like cocaine or anthrax may come to mind. But what about common white powders we ingest every day? In my previous post, I argued that added sugars should be considered lethal: http://www.doctorchrisko.blogspot.com/2013/06/cooking-for-your-kids-simply-infused.html
In still another post, I argued that any highly processed grain such as commercially produced flour should be considered unhealthy: http://www.doctorchrisko.blogspot.com/2013/08/cooking-for-your-kids-carbs-gone-bad_25.html
But what about salt? Should salt be considered a deadly white powder? Is salt itself deadly or is it deadly by association?
Salt And Blood PressureThe words salt and sodium are often used interchangeably because 90% of the sodium we consume is in the form of salt. One gram of salt contains 400mg of sodium. The average American eats about 3400 milligrams of sodium or about nine grams of salt per day. Many consider salt to be a dietary evil because population studies have demonstrated an association between increased dietary sodium intake and elevations in blood pressure. Based on this, the American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium intake to less than 1500 milligrams per day. However, guidelines like these are not only impractical, they are also based on mistaking association for cause and effect.
Salt RestrictionBecause salt intake is associated with blood pressure, it is tempting to conclude that elevating salt intake causes elevations in blood pressure and lowering salt intake lowers blood pressure. However, studies of lowering salt intake as a means to reduce blood pressure have yielded equivocal findings. For instance, multiple studies show that salt restriction in healthy children has no appreciable effect on blood pressure. And while some studies in hypertensive adults have demonstrated reductions in blood pressure with salt restriction, a recent review using the strongest statistical methodology available found that the benefit of salt restriction on blood pressure is actually quite small. On average, reducing salt intake to less than 2 grams per day was associated with only a 3.47 and 1.81 millimeter drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers (top and bottom numbers in blood pressure measurement).
Furthermore, although elevated blood pressure contributes to heart disease, a recent critical review of multiple studies found no evidence to show that reducing salt intake prevents heart disease or helps you to live longer. In fact, some evidence actually shows that extreme salt restriction is associated with more heart disease and lower life expectancy! (However, sodium restriction is important for certain populations who are susceptible to fluid retention such as people with kidney, liver, or heart failure.)
Salt in Processed FoodsWhy is salt restriction only weakly effective at lowering blood pressure? Could it be because salt intake is not itself deadly but instead is associated with the intake of something much more sinister? 65% of salt intake comes from processed foods and another 25% comes from eating out at restaurants. In particular, amongst the top ten foods that contribute the most sodium in the American diet, half come from processed grains such as bread, rolls, pizza, sandwiches, and savory snacks (i.e. chips, popcorn, and pretzels). Additionally, ready-to-eat cereal ranks in the top ten dietary sources of sodium amongst kids ages two through nineteen.
Because so much of our salt intake comes from eating processed foods, the salty American diet is really just a high processed food diet. The association between salt intake and blood pressure may not be a causal relationship but instead be related to a third variable--processed grains that are high in glycemic index. For instance, studies show that diets that are high in glycemic index are associated with elevated blood pressure. So while salt often gets the blame, the problem may not be the salt itself, but that salt comes packaged with another deadly weapon.
This is an important distinction to make. Rather than shun salt, health conscious individuals should shun the processed foods that are high in salt. Not only is most processed food bad for your kids, but the inherent high salt content makes processed food more palatable so they want to eat more of it. On top of that, all that salt in processed foods make kids thirsty for sugary beverages like soda, which compounds the problem. So while salt may not be causing America's health problems, it certainly drives us to eat the processed foods that do cause health problems.
A Home Chef Worth Their SaltDistinguishing between salt as the problem versus salty processed foods as the problem is especially important so that home chefs don't develop a fear of using salt in their meals. Processed food giants inherently know that salt enhances flavor. By the same token, you can get your kids to eat healthy food that you prepare for them simply by using salt to enhance the flavor of home cooked meals. If you judiciously use salt to bring out the natural taste of the foods you prepare at home, your kids will be more likely to enjoy real food. By eating more good stuff and less processed junk, your kids will head down a much healthier path.
One great way of using salt to flavor food and increase your kid's vegetable intake at the same time is to use vegetable or chicken broth to make a homemade soup. In the following video, I demonstrate an easy mushroom soup recipe that your kids are sure to crave.
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The recipe featured in this video can be found at the following link:
Hopefully this post encouraged you to do more home cooking and eat less processed foods so that you and your family will no longer be victims of assault with a deadly weapon!
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