No need for a salt shaker on the Thanksgiving table: Unless you really cooked from scratch, there’s lots of sodium already hidden in the menu.
Stealth sodium can do a number on your blood pressure. Americans eat way too much salt, and most of it comes inside common processed foods and restaurant meals.
The traditional Thanksgiving fixings show how easy sodium can sneak into the foods you’d least expect. Yes, raw turkey is naturally low in sodium. But sometimes a turkey or turkey breast is injected with salt water to plump it, adding a hefty dose of sodium before it even reaches the store — something you’d have to read the fine print to discover.
From the stuffing to the green bean casserole to even pumpkin pie, people can reach their daily sodium allotment or more in that one big meal unless the cook employs some tricks.
“For Thanksgiving or any meal, the more you can cook from scratch and have some control over the sodium that’s going in, the better,” says the American Dietetic Association’s Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian at the Henry Ford Health Health System in Detroit.
The Food and Drug Administration this month opened deliberations on how to cut enough salt in processed foods for average shoppers to have a good shot at meeting new dietary guidelines. The idea: If sodium levels gradually drop in the overall food supply, it will ease the nation’s epidemic of high blood pressure — and our salt-riddled taste buds will have time to adjust to the new flavor.
“Reducing sodium is important for nearly everyone,” Dr. Robin Ikeda of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the FDA hearing.
The question is how to make that happen. The prestigious Institute of Medicine and several public health advocates are urging the FDA to order gradual rollbacks, setting different sodium levels for different kinds of foods, a step the government has been reluctant to take.
Food makers want a voluntary approach and say they’re reworking their recipes, some as part of a campaign launched by New York City to cut salt consumption by at least 20 percent over five years.
In the U.S., the average person consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day. The nation’s new dietary guidelines say no one should eat more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium — about what’s in a teaspoon of salt — and half the population should eat even less, just 1,500 milligrams. The smaller limit is for anyone who’s in their 50s or older, African-Americans of any age, and anyone suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.