Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where would we be without salt?

Where would we be without salt? queried James Beard, an American chef and food editor. Well, Tony and I are finding out.

Tony was referred to a nutritionist and is now on a low sodium diet to reduce his high blood pressure and weight. Rather than cook two separate meals, I'm also following the diet to a lesser degree. It's probably not a bad idea considering high blood pressure also runs in my family.

We were not really sure how salt intake affected blood pressure and there seems to be conflicting studies about whether it does have an impact.[1] Salt is essential for the function of nerves and muscles, and balancing fluids in the body.[2] We apparently only need a small amount of salt but tend to eat more than we need. Usually the kidneys control the level of salt in the blood but if there is too much, the salt draws water into the blood increasing the volume of blood and therefore, blood pressure. However, it seems that there are people who have problems metabolising salt ("salt sensitive") and they are more likely to have problems with high salt intake.[3]. Anyway, whatever the reason, it probably doesn't hurt us to reduce our salt intake.

The nutritionist says we need to train Tony's taste buds to not crave salt. So for the next three months he is restricted to breads, cereals, dairy except cheese, vegetables, fruits, lean red meats, chicken and fish. Also excluded are vegemite, peanut butter, soya sauce, teriyaki sauce, worcestershire sauce, and stock. Well, we got a bit of a reprieve, we can use salt-reduced stock or as the nutritionist suggested I can "make a big batch on the weekend". Just what I want to do when I'm working late or way behind on my yoga assignments—not.

I must admit the exercise has been an eye-opener. I'm used to checking labels for kilojoules and fat but checking for sodium?!! I can't do the shopping online and the last two shopping trips have taken about 1½ hours. Some of my Weight Watchers® staples like baked beans (even though salt-reduced), salsa and popcorn are out. And the quick meals like noodles, vol au vents, tacos are also out.

It's a challenge trying to reduce the salt in all our meals, especially without using my usual condiments. (Have you ever heard of an Asian meal without soya sauce or chilli sauce?). Anyway, I better finish my rant because I have a huge cooking session in front of me. I'm about to try and make a couple of meals to freeze, dinner for tonight, and a home-made salsa (without salt of course). And I currently have some beans soaking so I can make baked beans tomorrow. Wish me luck!


  1. Dietary Sodium, MedicinePlus
  2. Salt Wars - Is Salt Restriction Necessary?,
  3. Salt and High Blood Pressure,

Update: Look at the amount of baked beans we ended up with.

To reduce the sodium in the baked beans I eliminated the bacon and salt from the recipe. However, I also eliminated the sugar so I found that the baked beans didn't taste as sweet as the baked beans you buy in the supermarket. Tony thinks they taste OK but, if I attempt this again, I might try and substitute Splenda®.

And bonus—the baked beans seem to freeze well.

1 comment:

  1. We have since found out that Heinz have a "No added salt" baked beans. Definitely easier than making our own.


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