In the USA we have a love affair with salt. But it’s an unhealthy relationship, and it wouldn’t have to be this way.

I was always a heavy salter. When I get French Fries, instead of tossing a little salt over the top, I put some salt on the plate and then rub each fry in the salt before I eat it. And I still do, I just don’t eat fries as often.

When I tried to switch to a lower salt diet for my blood pressure, I found many obstacles. I also found that how much salt tastes right to you, has everything to do with how much salt you usually eat. And I found that low salt foods, may not be marked as such in the grocery store.

Here are some of my own observations:

If a food tastes great without salt (or with little salt), the package will not loudly proclaim “No Salt Added” or “No Sodium” or “Low Salt” or the like. Why? I assume it’s because less people will buy a food that says no salt, since people think no salt means no flavor. This is true even for foods that never contain salt in traditional recipes, so taste completely normal without it. If you read the nutritional label, you’ll see the sodium content–you just won’t see it mentioned on the front of the package. Of course reading every nutrition label as you shop is time consuming.

If a reduced salt food tastes horrible, the label WILL loudly proclaim “No Salt” or “Low Salt” or the like. Because if something tastes terrible, the manufacturer knows they have lost the majority of shoppers–so they are now specifically marketing only to those people trying to cut salt. This leaves people with the impression that having to reduce salt, means you have to eat things that taste terrible.

How much salt you’re used to, dictates how much salt you want. After eating a very low sodium diet for just a couple days, say below 1300 mg, I found many foods I normally eat are waaay too salty. In fact some of them actually made my tongue sting! The truth is just about everything you buy in the store that has salt, has twice as much as you’d need to be tasty. But, because every other food maker puts in a lot of salt, if a particular company didn’t, their food would taste bad by comparison. So unless they all reduce salt at the same time, we’ll continue to have this culturally high level of salt.

If you do your own cooking, you can get used to a lower level. Personally, I hate to cook, so I don’t try to stay at a 1300 mg level. But I find that if I can stay under 2000 mg, my blood pressure is normal.

Young, healthy bodies can usually tolerate a higher salt level, but that doesn’t meant it’s good for you. The average person in the U.S. consumes 3400 mg of sodium a day, which is much more than you need.

If you’ve never tried reducing your salt, you may want to give it a shot. It may not be as bad as you think.

My Relationship with Salt