America Is Failing When It Comes to Salt Reduction. Be Proactive
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
America is in such a salt crisis that I think it’s probably about time we use technological innovations to reduce our salt intake. One such innovation has been tested by Japanese food company Kirin and Meiji University. This company created a pair of electric chopsticks that makes low-salt food taste more salty.
“One of the chopsticks is metal, allowing electric current to pass through it easily. Meanwhile, the other hand is a non-metal chopstick,” Tech Times reports
“Involved scientists said that the electric current makes a specific waveform into the user's mouth. This process can trigger the ions in monosodium glutamate and sodium chloride in food, bringing a salty flavor to them.”
The electric current is so gentle that it is apparently not dangerous to the user at all.
Furthermore, “The study [of how well the chopsticks work] confirmed that the salty taste intensity of a 30% reduced-salt food was the same as that of an ordinary food sample when electric stimulation was applied,” according to this report.
“The findings suggest as much as 30% of salt can therefore be reduced with the aid of the electrified device.”
In my opinion, these chopsticks need to be readily available in the U.S. It would also be great if an electric fork with the same effects was created. These utensils could be life-saving. Here is why.
In a recent study that explored what the American food sector needs to know about how to reduce sodium consumption, Dr. Soo-Yeun Lee, who is a co-author of the study and professor at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) at the University of Illinois, said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended less sodium in food since the 1980s yet we have yet to see an improvement.
“While the unit volume of salt in the food supply has not increased, the amount of sodium consumption has gone up, because we just consume a lot of food," she said, in this Medical Xpress report that discusses the study.
“We only need around 450 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, and the recommended maximum amount is 2,300 mg, or 1,500 mg for those at risk for hypertension. But average consumption exceeds 3,000 to 3,500 mg per day – or 50% to 100% above the upper limit. More than 70% of our sodium intake comes from processed and packaged foods, primarily cured meats, bread, cheese, and soups,” reports Medical Xpress.
Sodium is an essential micronutrient, but too much can be detrimental to our health.
We need salt to help engineer the actions of every human cell. And every human action - eating, thinking, running, working - depends on adequate sodium. Salt makes your body hold on to water, and excess salt may cause you to retain too much water. The excess water usually raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on various organs like your kidneys and heart. Excessive salt intake may also lead to other health issues, aside from hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Too much sodium has also been linked to osteoporosis, kidney stones and obesity. You can read more about this in detail here.
The study mentioned earlier included researchers looking at a variety of resources on salt consumption including other studies, literature reviews, books as well as “patents covering sodium reduction in food products,” reports Medical Xpress.
To give you an example of a sodium reduction patent, back in 2014 General Mills filed a patent for salt-flavored fat particles they developed that reportedly reduce sodium intake by about 50 percent and even lower the amount of saturated and trans fats in baked dough products. I’m not an advocate of eating processed foods, so I do not see this as a big win (especially because Americans are still eating a deadly amount of salt).
Nonetheless, the study I am bringing to your attention is very important. It gives us more insight regarding sodium in food and strategies that are being implemented to address it. The study identified five main reduction strategies:
- Salt reduction
- Salt replacers (potassium chloride, calcium chloride or other chloride or acid salts)
- Flavor modification
- Physical modification (“For example, you can encapsulate the salt crystals, which changes how the salt is dissolved in the mouth. This can alter the saltiness perception allowing for a reduction in the amount of sodium necessary to create the salty taste. You can also create an uneven distribution of the salt in a product that can further help enhance the perceived saltiness of the food product through taste contrast," said Aubrey Dunteman, a lead author on the study.
- Functional modification (salt is often used to preserve meats and make bread dough rise, but an example of a functional modification would be using a celery powder preservative)
Basically, it takes a lot of work to appease our salt-loving taste buds while preventing life-threatening illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Perhaps, a good takeaway from all this is that trying to make processed foods healthier and less salty is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Your best option (in my opinion) is to eat as many whole, natural foods as possible.
“If consumers want to reduce their salt intake, the best strategy is to cook your own food and limit your consumption of processed and packaged foods. You can also wean yourself off salt with practice, essentially go on a ‘salt diet,’" reports Medical Xpress.
We may not have electric chopsticks or forks that can curb our intake of salt, but the most powerful tool we have is our own cooking and eating habits.
To be a master of salt-free cooking, check out this pH Labs blog. Keep in mind that salt is a lot like sugar. The more sodium you consume, the more likely you will become addicted to it and need it to not perceive your food as being bland. If you are a regular potato chip eater, try making your own sweet potato fries instead. Top them with fresh herbs such as parsley and use tasty seasonings like garlic salt and black pepper. The more you get into the habit of cooking instead of reaching for those packaged foods, the healthier you will be. It does require more work, but it is definitely worth it.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.