Salt Sneak – Strategies for Less Saltiness

Salt Sneak – Strategies for Less Saltiness is almost a tongue twister – try saying that five times!

As a nation our love for reality shows, including those that involve cooking and celebrity chefs continues to grow and grow. Amidst all the competition and fanfare, have you noticed that these chef’s and their charges are very liberal with adding salt to their dishes? A bit of salt here, a lot of of it over there…

The problem with this of course, is that you and I get the impression that throwing these white grains on everything is perfectly fine. Salt can add a particular flavour to food (although most certainly not the only ingredient to do so) but frequent and excessive use can certainly have a negative impact on blood pressure, especially for those with existing hypertension.

 

The Very Taste of It

Your taste buds get used to the very taste of salt and then food without it seems to have no flavour. In reality, after a short period of shaking less salt, your food starts to taste how it should and real flavours start to emerge out of the saltiness. So many everyday foods that we eat already have salt added, with cereal, bread and cheese being perfect examples of high content.

Technically, salt is a chemical compound of sodium and chlorine and is called sodium chloride.  Rock and sea salt are almost entirely sodium chloride with only traces of other minerals. 

Iodised salt is intended as a supplement for people whose diet is deficient in iodine.  This is important because adequate iodine is essential for the brain development of unborn babies, infants and young children.  Iodine is only found in small quantities in food and iodised salt is the richest source available. It is advisable for us all to purchase salt with iodine for this reason.

Iodine aside, all types of salt whether they be rock, pink or from the soaring heights of the Himalayan peaks to the very depths of the Dead Sea, all contain the same quantity of sodium chloride and are therefore all equal in terms of the quantity they contain. By the way, the amount of other nutrients in any variety of salt is extremely minimal, no matter what the marketing proclaims. 

 

What’s the Problem With Eating Too Much Salt?

Research has shown that too much salt is linked to high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when blood vessels harden leading to a build-up of pressure.  It increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke and can lead to problems in other parts of the body such as the eyes and kidneys.

 

What Is The Best way to Reduce My Salt Intake?

  • Don’t add it to cooking
  • Be mindful that stock (both liquid and powder) and many sauces and gravies are high in salt, so minimize the use of these in cooking
  • Choose low or reduced sodium products in the supermarket – remember to read the label
  • Enjoy a diet rich in fruit and vegetables as they are naturally very low
  • Choose fresh, rather than packaged meats.  Fresh meat, chicken, pork and lamb contain natural sodium but much less than packaged varieties such as ham, bacon and other processed sandwich meats
  • Look out for products that don’t necessarily taste salty but have a significant salt content, cereal being a perfect example.
  • Be careful of making salty choices in café’s and restaurants. Salt is not something that is usually listed or highlighted, but you can ask the waiter or waitress to serve a dish without added salt.
  • Take-away and snack foods are often extremely high, so its best to limit your consumption of these.

 

The taste for salt CAN be changed.  It will take around 4-6 weeks for your taste buds to adapt but they WILL and once this happens everything will taste too salty! 

What about you – do you need to change your salt habits or do you have some tips that may help other readers?

 

Sporty, sports drinks

Yesterday I was on the sidelines of a Netta (pre-netball) match cheering on my daughters school team. At half time, one of the 9 year old team members was given a 600ml bottle of sports drink and she proceeded to drink the entire bottle. Funnily enough, I was interviewed by the West Australian newspaper a couple of days ago on the exact same topic so my sports drink antenna were on high alert. At half time in a Netta game, each team member has only played two ten minute quarters and will do the same again in the last half, with a grand total of 40 minutes with breaks in between.  Not surprisingly, this does not warrant the consumption of sports drink in any circumstance. Excess sugar, salt and calories, come on down. Despite the misconception of some people who think buying a sports drink is equivalent to doing exercise, they should only be used before, during or after extended bouts of exercise lasting one hour or longer. Most good sports drinks contain between 4-8% carbohydrate and the combination of the sugar (carbohydrate) and sodium (salt) increases the absorption of water, keeping you hydrated..  Sports drinks also act to delay fatigue by sparing muscle glycogen stores (carbohydrate) and topping up blood glucose Sports drinks are very useful and even essential for extended exercise sessions but all too often kids playing weekend sport and even adults are seen knocking these drinks back when just plain water will do the trick.

Croatian Capers

I crossed the border. Several times in fact. After three weeks in Italia we decided to see if what everyone else tells us is true, that the Croatian coastline is simply beautiful. The rumours are true but the funny thing is, to get to Dubrovnik from Venice one must go through Slovenia followed by a brief interlude into Croatia, a quick sojourn through Bosnia and then back to our original destination of Croatia. The quickest way to see to see four countries in 12 hours of driving surely.

Some interesting culinary experiences presented themselves on the drive which alternated between the austere never ending autostrada, winding rural countryside and the azure of the glittering Adriatic Sea. My lasting memory of Slovenia is of little wooden huts dotted along the roadside, smoke puffing out of their chimneys with a whole little piggy roasting inside. Not sure whether the whole pig gets presented to the customer or pieces get sliced off as needed as we went past too early for lunch.  The parts of Bosnia that flashed past the window were very rural and it seemed that strawberries, cherries and oranges were the main crops, with many of the farmers selling their wares on the roadside. One of these stalls provided some unexpected relief from the hecklers in the backseat, who after being in the car for most of the day spent their time alternating between fighting each other, generally driving their parents mad and chanting ‘are we there yet?’  The farmer manning the stall was very happy to see us and offloaded some cherries, strawberries and what I thought was orange juice. Thankfully he offered us a taste of the ‘juice’ before we bought as it lit a fire on the way down my throat. A sensation that children should probably not experience with their breakfast cereal. The look on my face must have been encouraging as the farmer then produced another bottle, this time from under his table, called Prosec. I know what you are thinking, I went there too. If you have ever tried the liquer known as Marsala, Prosec was just like it without any prescription required, but the fact that we would have to make our way through one litre in a matter of weeks made it a no sale.

The move from Italy to Croatia meant a transition from a carbohydrate based diet to one that was centered around meat, meat, meat. The mixed meat platter is on every menu, generally always huge and consists of kebabs, sausages of several kinds, liver and pork or chicken steak. The other thing that I noticed after a few days is that EVERYTHING is salty. Salt does add flavor to food but frequent use can have a negative impact on blood pressure, especially for those with existing hypertension. Plus taste buds get used to it and then food without salt seems to have no flavor. Have you noticed that celebrity chefs are very liberal with adding salt to their dishes? So many everyday foods that we eat already have salt added, with cereal, bread and cheese being perfect examples and eliminating the need to sprinkle it ourselves.

Grilled vegetables are divine here and mostly consist of eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and onion, although my new favourite food is Swiss Chard mixed with boiled potato with this dark green vegetable being very similar to silver beet both in flavour and colour and is very delicious.

My withdrawal from salt begins now. The rolling countryside of the Umbrian hills will surely provide some inspiration.          

The not so happy pig