It is not often Louise and I disagree over something dietetically or generally for that matter. She is the Yin to my Yang. The calm to my crazy and the rational to my irrational impulses. A great working and blog team.
However, recently we have disagreed on one aspect of dietetics and that is salt.
In the Howe household my husband does all of the cooking and in the Robertson household it is split a bit more.
The type of cooking between camps is very similar with plenty of cooking from scratch, lots of fresh vegetables and dishes from all over the world. There is one difference and that is the use of salt.
Husband Howe adds salt to his cooking if he makes something from scratch, like a bolognaise or chilli. Louise, on the other hand will not but husband Robertson does sneak some in.
Should salt be added to cooking? We argue the case; myself for the argument for using salt in cooking and Louise argues against it!
We all eat too much salt. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey in 2014 stated we are still all having too much salt in our diets. I love my food and am definitely a firm believer in cooking from scratch. I can taste the salt and sugar in jars of pasta sauce and if hubby and I have a take-away we always complain of the “salt hangover” the next day. That horrible thirsty, dry mouth feeling minus any alcohol. However, I do believe that adding salt to taste makes a meal. My husband will always add a few grinds of salt from our shaker if he is making a chilli or bolognaise and I don’t think this matters too much. It is far less salt than in a jar or takeaway. We don’t eat packaged soups or crisps (very rarely) or salted nuts and nor does my 2 year old daughter. I think it is very hard to avoid her getting a taste for salt, as despite not giving her a lot, she adores salt and vinegar crisps when she can steal some and of course she likes cheese, which is full of salt. It is a case of us being careful overall and not eating out too often, where of course more salt is added to foods. I know I could get used to home cooked food with no salt but the truth is, if the rest of your diet is relatively unprocessed; lean, fresh meats, fruit, vegetables and the least processed wholegrains you can find, I think adding a bit of salt to food isn’t too bad.
Yes we do eat far to much salt in our diet, so why add even more? You can cook from scratch to avoid all added salt, but in a convenient diet you can’t get away from it. I don’t have time to make my own bread or crackers and my sandwich filling are sometimes cheese or ham, but I can modify the foods I make at home to have very little or no added salt in them! You can train your taste buds and get used to less salt. When my mother in law came to stay for 2 weeks over Christmas (she lives abroad) she commented that she had got used to no salt in the cooking by the end of the week (opps I didn’t realise I had subjected it on her!). It’s only in the last few years that I have stopped adding any salt to my home cooked food (mince, stews, casseroles, pasta). Now I have 2 children, I don’t want them to get the taste for it. It stemmed from when they were weaning, I would purée or mash down a portion of our family meal so would not add salt to it. Saying this, they still do love the odd packet of crisps! My husband on the other hand sneaks the salt into his cooking when I have my back turned, but I can always taste it is in there!!
Action on Salt is a great website to give you the low down on salt, the reasons we need it and why too much is not so brilliant. Here are some salt facts and information:
- We need salt as it is involved in fluid regulation in the body.
- Currently it is recommended that we (adults and children over 11 years) have no more than 6g of salt a day but we are actually having an average of 8g per day (33% higher)!
- On average men are consuming more salt than women.
- Excessive salt in the diet has been linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, obesity, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and water retention.
- Studies have actually shown 75% of our salt intake comes from processed foods and although soups and packets are a source, so are cereals and breads and which are less obvious.
Tips to Reduce the Amount of Salt in your Diet
It is thought to take up to three weeks to change your palate when aiming to reduce salt in the diet. At first foods may taste quite bland but in time you will get used to it.
- As Louise says, you don’t have to add salt to cooking, including your vegetables. Use herbs, spices and garnishes like coriander to add flavour and taste.
- Don’t add salt to cooked food. Removing from the table is probably the best idea.
- Try to reduce intake of processed foods that are high in salt; tinned and packaged soups, crisps, salted nuts and processed meats like bacon and hams.
- Understand how to read labels. Many labels now conveniently use the traffic light system where obviously red is classed as a food high in salt and should be consumed not too often. However, if not you will need to work out the amount per 100g and use the following below as guidance. Often only sodium is listed on the label. You need to multiply this figure by 2.5 to calculate how much salt in present in the food. The image below is courtesy of the Action on Salt website.
- Be smart when eating out. Often the simpler dishes like a piece of meat or unsmoked fish with vegetables are likely to contain the least amount of salt and you can always ask the chef to add less or none. Any hams or bacons, smoked fishes, dishes with soy sauces or “salted” foods are going to be the worst. Another tip is to ask for dressings or sauces on the side so you can control how much you consume.
We are all having too much salt in our diets but there are ways to cut down and ultimately, like the majority of dietetic advice, eating the least processed diet is always the way to go. Lean meats and unsmoked fish, wholegrains, unsalted nuts and lots of fruit and vegetables.
But is adding a bit of salt to cooking acceptable in your view?
Team Sarah or Team Louise?