New York City Wages War On Salt – BTS Yawns, Asks Where’s the Sodium
Posted January 17th, 2010 by Chris
Filed under: new york city, new york times, sodium, war on salt
In case you missed it, the City of New York decided to target the sodium intake of its citizens this week in an effort to increase public health (the New York Times article describing the initiative). This is similar to other social and public health programs instituted by Chicago and New York over the last few years. At Beyond the Shaker, we were overrun with questions about how New York’s plan to curtail sodium in products would impact our flavor-filled mission to spark an unrefined salt revolution. And the answer is…we don’t really give NYC’s initiative a lot of thought as a threat to Beyond the Shaker. Of course, we certainly care about public health and decreasing blood pressure, but as the New York Times article points out, (and as we have discussed in our Salt Guide), there is still no scientific evidence that directly ties sodium intake to heart disease or blood pressure. There are some studies that indicate there may be a specific gene that causes high blood pressure and such gene is triggered by sodium, but to date there is no evidence that universally, decreasing sodium consumption provides a decrease in hypertension.
Putting aside whether the sodium in your diet actually is the cause of high blood pressure, WE do agree that there seems to be a lot of sodium in packaged and restaurant foods. Studies indicate that 80% of salt in our diets originates from packaged or restaurant food. That statistic is staggering regardless of the health impact of a high sodium diet. And this is precisely why New York’s “war on salt” really does not faze us at Beyond the Shaker. Our focus from the beginning has been cooking at home and the value of using unrefined, naturally harvested, salts in your kitchen to boost flavor. Foods that are pre-packaged often contain high sodium levels because of salt’s ability to act as a preservative. Typically when using salt in the dishes you prepare yourself, little thought (hopefully) goes into the shelf life of that home made meal. Instead, in the home kitchen, you reach for salt to add flavor, texture and color.
In an incredibly useful, but unscientific poll, we have observed that use of unrefined salts (like the salts in our Pure Foundation Collection) and salt blends (like the hand crafted blends in our Beyond Blends Collection) typically curtails the overall total amount of salt that would have been used if table salt were substituted. The explanation behind this culinary phenomenon stems from the fact, in our opinion, that tasters recognize a more satisfying salt flavor in unrefined salts. Table salts are processed to a point where the salt itself transforms into more of a lab experiment than a seasoning, especially with all the various anti-caking agents and additives used in the modern ‘table salt’ (shelf life = infinity). Just take a close look at snow-flake like Murray River Salt or the incredible crystal structure of Cyprus Black Lava Salt, and even visually, it becomes quite clear why table salt just doesn’t cut it on our palettes.
So I guess we applaud New York’s initiative, not because we believe the government should legislate what we eat, but instead because it might mean people will make an effort to prepare more of their food themselves. Add some wonderfully distinctive salts to your kitchen pantry, explore some of our recipes and application ideas, and cook at home for yourself and family. This can be quite rewarding and certainly more healthy that relying on food produced in a factory setting where the focus is shelf life, not flavor!