When researchers do studies on salt consumption in the United States, they all find the same trends. The salt we sprinkle on our food accounts for about 10% of our salt consumption, the amount we put in our cooking, another 10% and the amount we obtain through processed foods or restaurant foods accounts for the rest.
I thought of this the other evening while enjoying dinner with my friend. She was loading salt on her food similar to the way a concrete truck prepares a driveway – a lot and with a consistent flow. Unconsciously my eyes kept getting bigger and bigger as I envisioned her arteries screaming and her kidney’s gasping for air. She caught my look and replied back with “Oh, don’t worry. Other than what I add to food, I get almost no salt in my diet.” She obviously didn’t realize that her shrimp and grits from a popular chain restaurant she was eating averaged about 3,000 mg of sodium, or that the corn chips she had earlier in the day contained about 700 mg of sodium.
Recommendations for the general public are to keep salt intake around 1,500 mg a day and not to exceed 2,300 mg. A study published in the April issue of Archives of Internal Medicine found that most fast food lunches in New York City provided a full day’s allotment of sodium and then some. The mean sodium content was 1,751 mg. Researchers recommend that consumers “hold all sodium” throughout the rest of the day after a fast food lunch. This is actually great advice for my friend and everyone else. If you’re planning on going out today for breakfast, lunch or dinner, try to stay away from sodium the rest of the day. That means avoid processed foods, cook with herbs instead of salt and add minimal or no salt to your foods.
Believe me when I say this, everyone is getting much more salt than they think and we could all be doing more cooking at home and less eating out anyway!