Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Salt

The negative health consequences of salt are stark. Sadly, the homeless community and other poor people who go to soup kitchens or get a significant portion of their food from food banks or churches or from kindly people distributing food from their car, intake huge quantities of sodium.

In Homeless World we are assaulted by salt ― in chips and crackers and from the heavy seasoning hand of soup kitchen cooks.

The Union Gospel Mission now regularly offers salt and pepper in packets with their evening meals, which allows diners to season their food themselves. In combination with putting less salt in prepared foods, people have the opportunity to cut back on their salt intake.

But cutting back on the salt assault is rare in a world where stale baked goods and past-due-date packets of salty food is a rather substantial portion of what is available to be eaten, and where soups and salads and cornbread glisten with tiny white freckles.

A prime offender is the lunch meals served at Loaves & Fishes. Typically, crackers and cornbread and heavily salted side dishes are mainstays of meals.

Here's what Nutrition Action Health Lettter says about salt on the cover page of its April, 2010, issue:
Shaving Salt, Saving Lives

It could prevent up to 92,000 deaths and 66,000 strokes every year. It could keep up to 99,000 Americans from having a heart attack and up to 120,000 others from getting heart disease every year. And it could save $10 to $24 billion in health care costs every year.

That's what we could save by cutting 1,200 milligrams of sodium out of the average American's daily diet. [The average, now, is ~3,500 mg per person per day, with government "recommended" levels being 1,500 mg.]

"The health benefits to the U.S. population would be on a par with cutting the number of smokers and the number of people exposed to secondhand smoke by half," says researcher Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco.

And those figures are probably an underestimate.

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