Sodium or salt is a flavor enhancer, it’s main property is to make our food taste good. On top of that it also helps preserve food allowing it to stay longer on the shelfs at the grocery store. This is why salt is now in almost all of our food product in monstrous amounts. Salt has been known for a while to play a big role in the development of heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure. Yet most of us are already hooked and find it very difficult to stay away from it. The salt suppliers don’t make it easy either, a quick google search will tell you there’s over 20 different types of salt claiming to be better for us than the other types. What’s the truth?
Salt is salt. The effect it has on our health remains the same no matter if you eat sea salt or pink salt. The difference in type refers mostly to were the salt originated from and sometimes how it was processed. Despite all this, lack of information is not what is keeping heart disease on the rise. According to the CDC about 70% of our salt consumption comes from restaurant and pre-made meals.
Salt is salt.
The solution seams simple, we should just cook at home. However we all know deciding to make the majority of our meals at home is far from easy. A lot of it has to do with lack of time but also habit. We’ll often say to ourselves we don’t have time to cook, we come home from work too late to start a meal. This can be fixed by planning ahead, if we cooked our meals on the weekend being ready for the week we would have both home made meals and we wouldn’t have to cook after our work day. Then someone might say well I don’t know how to cook. This can also be a fairly quick fix, buy a recipe book and follow the instruction or attend a cooking class (you can even find some that are offered online). Why don’t we do it when the cost of not doing it is our health?
It comes down to habits, we have our weekly habits and our weekend habits and it’s hard to change it. Some of it can also be attributed to the way our brain functions, we have a harder time seeing long term benefit of an action vs the immediate results of another. When we try to be prepared by making most of our meals on the weekend our brain thinks about the immediate work that entails and not the reward of having home cooked meals all week. Change is hard but not impossible, we mostly fail to change because we try to do it to fast and change too many things at once. Understandably so, someone who just had a heart attack is scared and wants to make changes right away. Sadly, too often the changes stop the second the fear fades and the person is out of the hospital and thrown into his or her previous environment and habit cues. If you want to make a change in your habits start slowly, you might even feel at first like you’re not making any changes at all. Never forget the story of the rabbit and the turtle.
Consider Susan who never cooks, she has a very busy life and doesn’t think she has time. The idea of adding cooking which would take hours out of a day feels very overwhelming. She was just diagnosed with hypertension and wants to try. She starts by buying a recipe book. For the first month every Saturday she looks at the recipes before grocery shopping, but doesn’t cook any meals. She slowly starts appreciating looking at the recipes, they look good and she would love to eat some of the dishes. The second month she takes it a step further, she looks at the recipes picks one and writes a grocery list for the ingredient. She still doesn’t actually buy the ingredients and does not cook the dish. She only bought the ingredients and cooked a meal when the process of finding a recipe and making a list became a habit. After all that time of looking at the recipes when she finally made one her reward was immense from all the anticipation and encouraged her to make another meal the following Saturday. She would continue to only make 1 meal per week until that became a habit, at which point she would repeat the process for two. Starting by for a full month only picking a second recipe.
It might take her years of habit building but eventually Susan will eat the majority of her meals from her own cooking. She didn’t even focus on low sodium meals, she needed to focus on developing the skill of cooking first. Simply by avoiding eating at restaurant and frozen meals her salt intake over time decreased dramatically since most home made recipes will contain much less sodium than a bought meal. Susan was an example of someone who didn’t cook. Everyone starts somewhere different when it comes to food. Find your starting point and make a small change, over time you’ll change your life.