The War on Salt

My personal salt collection

I'm fired up.

I know a lot of my readers are actually children's literature folks, not necessarily as obsessed with food as I am. Nevertheless, even my bookish friends can't NOT read this article in the New York Times: "The Hard Sell on Salt". I encourage you to read it because 1) it's just fascinating "science", 2) it affects you because you eat food, and 3) being bookish types means that you pursue knowledge. And this article will certainly increase your knowledge of "food science" and a multi-billion dollar industry.

For those of you not inclined, here were some of the highlights for me...with commentary when I just can't shut up:
  • "Government experts estimate that deep cuts in salt consumption could save 150,000 lives a year." Because the government can't afford to say that deep cuts in processed food consumption could save that many lives and more.
  • "It includes two studies commissioned by ConAgra suggesting that the country could save billions of dollars more in health care and lost productivity costs by simply nudging Americans to eat a little less food, rather than less salty food." Crap. Is it possible I actually agree with ConAgra?!
  • [Regarding Cheez-Its] "Salt sprinkled on top gives the tongue a quick buzz. More salt in the cheese adds crunch. Still more in the dough blocks the tang that develops during fermentation. In all, a generous cup of Cheez-Its delivers one-third of the daily amount of sodium recommended for most Americans." Here's the real question, though: how much pleasure does that cup of Cheez-Its bring you? True pleasure. As in, your day - nay, your life - has been made better for having eaten it? The salt isn't the problem...
  • "Making deep cuts in salt can require more expensive ingredients that can hurt sales. Companies that make low-salt pasta sauces improve the taste with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh herbs that cost more than dried spices and lower grade tomatoes." Yes. Let's use more expensive ingredients! And that's not elitist. I'd tell you why but this post is already ridiculous...
  • "Chicken noodle soup has been especially vexing [for Campbell], he said. With only 150 calories, a single can of the condensed soup has more than a whole day's recommended sodium for most Americans." A whole day's?! That's insane. But here's the thing: it's about balance. Bug loves this crappy soup and we let her have it...but only about 1-2 times a month. Not as part of her regular diet and she eats plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are a part of her everyday meals. Balance. Why hasn't the government mentioned that? I'd rather they pour their money into education and subsidies for non-commodity farmers and humane ranchers rather than some crappy war on salt.
  • "While low-calorie sweeteners opened a huge market of people eager to look better by losing weight, he said, salt is only a health concern, which does not have the same market potential." Really, there isn't much I can add to this statement. It's a sad, sad, sad truth.
I don't know how much more I can say. It just seems to me that we're barking up the wrong tree here by attacking salt. I mean, I know that Michael Pollan is considered academic and elitist but come on: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That's common sense. Then again, common sense isn't all that common, is it?

Eat, drink, and cut out processed foods.

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