It's OK to eat salt again. Really! Here are some of my favorites, from top to bottom: Hawaiian black lava salt, Necton flor de sel from Spain, Himalayan pink salt, grey sea salt from the Ile de Noirmoutier, cherry smoked Japanese sea salt and chunky sale di Cervia from Emilia-Romagna in Italy.
So now, after avoiding salt, it’s OK to eat it?
I’m certainly not the only person who remembers Nanny Bloomberg’s controversial campaign against salt: a "healthy living" strategy from a man who is said to sprinkle salt on his pizza.
In “Salt, We Misjudged You,” (The New York Times, June 3, 2012), Gary Taubes writes that the conventional wisdom—salt consumption raises blood pressure, causes hypertension and ups the ante for early death—may be wrong. Even worse, he says, doctors for decades have ignored evidence to the contrary: That eating too little salt may cause you to kick the bucket prematurely.
Taubes, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Independent Investigator in Health Policy and the author of Why We Get Fat, (another burning question) states that the campaign to restrict salt from our diets has been based on assumption rather than fact. “If we eat too much salt for years, does it raise our blood pressure, cause hypertension, then strokes and then kill us prematurely? It makes sense, but it’s only a hypothesis.”
He adds the obvious: “The reason scientists do experiments is to find out if hypotheses are true.”
It seems that the NIH has spent “enormous sums of money” to prove that salt kills, with inconclusive results. At the same time, “a slew of studies” starting in 1972, suggesting that eating too little salt “is likely to do more harm than good,” have been ignored. Four recent trials—“involving Type 1 diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, healthy Europeans and patients with chronic heart failure—reported that the people eating salt at the lower limit of normal were more likely to have heart disease than those eating smack in the middle of the normal range.”
So what is normal salt intake? Based on studies of 100,000 people in 30 countries, our natural inclination is to eat about one and one-half teaspoons a day. That’s 50 percent more than our federal guidelines recommend.
Are you confused yet?
Perhaps this the moment to observe that B is fond of quoting his mother who was a chief dietician for the City of New York for 25 years, 10 of them at Harlem Hospital. Whenever the latest, greatest medical hypothesis came along, she’d say “Just wait 5 years. They’ll change their minds again.”
The problem is that for 40 years, government and most doctors have chosen to shrug off studies that disprove the benefits of salt restriction. Last November, Taubes writes, at a hearing held by “several agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration…to discuss how to go about getting Americans to eat less salt…proponents argued that that test reports suggesting damage from lower salt diets should simply be ignored.” (Italics are mine.)
Can you say “selective?”
And this is definitely the place to confess that I adore salt and have never stopped eating it. Our pantry is full of wondrous salts from so many far-off places that we’ll never use them up. And that little dish of kosher salt by the stove? It is continuously replenished (though I try to follow Terence's dictum: "All things in moderation.")
What I do avoid is added salt in processed food—mainly by eating as little processed and fast food as possible. Except for restaurant meals, where the chef is at the helm, mine is the hand that adds the salt.
You know, like Mayor Bloomberg and his pizza. Maybe we have something in common.