Monday, March 30, 2009

To salt or not to salt

Don't get me started on salt. Let's just say that most people eat too much and food manufacturers enable them. The thing with salt is that the more you eat, the more your palate wants. Luckily, that works in reverse, too. If you start cutting back on salt you will discover that you're satisfied by a lot less.

Now to the science. The general wisdom on salt and health is that it can cause problems for your blood pressure, but really only if you are what is considered "salt sensitive." The catch is that salt sensitivity is not easily or obviously measurable, so to play it safe doctors recommend that everyone, especially anyone with risk factors for hypertension, cut back.

A recent study by the University of Kentucky Medical School and a medical college in China illustrates the relationship between salt and hypertension. The researchers reported that high levels of salt in the blood can suppress the activity of an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase (NOS). The significance of this is that NOS is indirectly reponsible for signals to the muscles surrounding blood vessels to relax. An UNrelaxed muscle can constrict the blood vessel and increase blood pressure.

So the lesson here is that if you--or anyone in your family--tends toward high blood pressure, then you should start cutting back on the salt (not just salt added at the table, but the sodium in canned goods). You will find that soon your tastebuds won't notice that you've cut back.

Why, you ask, is there a picture of an ear of corn here? Well, there are a couple of foods that most people are adamant about sprinkling with salt, and corn on the cob is right at the top of the list. So here's my tip (and I've converted a bunch of hard-core salt lovers to this method): Serve the corn with wedges of lime. Smoosh it over the corn before you add any butter...though the corn-lime combination is pretty good without butter, but one battle at a time, right?

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