Friday, July 22, 2011

A note about sodium

This is just a sticky note for my profile.

I've been submitting some recipes lately to paleo/primal-ish sites like Chowstalker. If that's where you came from you may be wondering "What's up with all the sodium counts?" There's a lot of debate lately about how "heart healthy" reduced sodium diets really are, and whether reducing salt actually affects blood pressure on a population level. Some paleo/primal folks recommend moderation in salt intake, while others fully reject the "conventional wisdom" about reduced sodium diets.

My reasons for restricting sodium sidestep that entire debate. I have an inner ear condition that causes intermittent severe vertigo attacks. My doctor and I are currently operating under the assumption that I have Meniere's disease, however I haven't fully completed the testing for that (it is expensive and not urgent). A low sodium diet is recommended for Meniere's sufferers to reduce the amount of fluids in the inner ear. For me, it has reduced the frequency and severity of the vertigo attacks. It seems to have done nothing for the other symptoms, but I can live with those.

This blog exists largely to share how I cook. And I cook low sodium now. If that works for you great, it's been helpful to share recipes with some of my friends who have similar issues. If it doesn't work for you, feel free to add additional salt to my recipes. I won't be sad... personally, I really do love salty food, so I know where you're coming from.

I will go out on a limb here and say that if you're interested in eating from a evolutionary perspective, you should at least think about your sodium intake. NHANES data indicates that the American adults consume on average 3,466mg of sodium per day. That is similar to some of the highest sodium traditional diets in the world (Japan & Korea), while it's likely that paleolithic people consumed in the range of 600-1200mg of sodium. The largest category of foods contributing to the high intake in America is actually grain foods; breads and baked goods are highly salted, and cutting them out of your diet can cut sodium considerably. However, if you're eating a lot of bacon & sausage or salting your food to suit the modern American palate, you're probably still consuming a lot. Before you decry the "conventional wisdom" on salt, think a little bit about whether you're actually consuming a level of sodium only accessible to neolithic man. Cavemen didn't have collectible salt shakers or bottles of fish sauce and they didn't crust their meat in a salt rub before throwing it on the grill.

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