Salt…dash it or ditch it?

SALT! Once a revered and ancient condiment that brings out the natural flavors of food, has become the most feared and evil condiment blamed for our countries  epidemic of high blood pressure and water retention.  Doctors everywhere are recommending that their patients avoid salt at all costs via strict diets and salt-free seasoning. What in the world has happened to our beloved salt?  After all, our bodies are made up of 72% salt water, and we need salt to survive! In fact, one study revealed that people consuming less than 2300 mg of sodium daily (the recommended daily allowance) had a greater chance of dying than other people.  What gives?

Well, according to a 1991 study by CSPI “Processed and restaurant foods account for more than three-quarters of all sodium,” meaning most of the sodium we are consuming is not coming from the salt we put on our foods at home. With the rise in convenience foods and incidence of eating out has come a huge rise in salt-related health problems.  So by cutting out a lot of processed, take-out, and restaurant prepared foods, we should be able to reduce these health issues, right?

Well, yes and no. Preparing the majority of your foods at home will cut a large amount of sodium out of your diet, but the fact remains that not all salt is created equal.  Most ‘table salt’, used in food prepared both in and out of the home, is highly refined and processed, which removes the trace minerals that are healthy and essential for our bodies.  This type of salt also usually contains additives such as anti-caking agents and dextrose (sugar!).  On the other hand, sea salt, minimally or unrefined salt, contains with it all of the natural minerals and usually contains no additives.  Along with cutting down on high sodium processed foods, this is the type of salt we should be using when preparing our foods at home.  In fact, some people find that using natural and unrefined sea salt does not affect their blood pressure at all.

When looking for a sea salt to buy, there are so many choices.  The first step is to look at the ingredient label and make sure there are no other ingredients in it besides salt! Real sea salt also usually has some color to it and is not bright white like the salt we are used to.  This color is the naturally occurring minerals in the salt.  Another important thing to consider is where your salt comes from.  All salt comes from the ocean, but many salts are evaporated from current ocean water, thus are exposed to environmental pollutants in the water.  Look for salt that is mined from underneath the ocean, which keeps it from being exposed to pollutants.

Lastly, many people feel they need to eat iodized salt, which is salt that has iodine added to it.  Iodine is an important mineral that is necessary in our diets for healthy thyroid function.  However, it should be noted that sea salt does contain some naturally occurring iodine, while iodine can also easily be found in our food supply.  Some foods highest in iodine include milk, dried seaweed, eggs, fish and shellfish, navy beans, and plain yogurt, just to name a few.

My favorite salt is “Real Salt”, a specific brand of sea salt, and I use it in all my cooking. For more information on salt check out Real Salt’s “Guide to Understanding Salt”.

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Watermelon, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad

By Dana M. Youkilis, MS, RD

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey*

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups diced seeded watermelon*

1 ½ cups diced cucumber*

1 cup diced heirloom or cherry tomatoes*

½ cup scallions, chopped*

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil*

1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, toasted (see Tip) and coarsely chopped

Directions

Whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, and salt in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, scallions and basil; add dressing and toss gently to combine. Just before serving, sprinkle with peanuts.

Tip: To toast nuts:  Heat a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add nuts and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 109; Total Fat 8g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 199mg; Total Carbohydrate 10g; Dietary Fiber 1g; Sugars 7g; Protein 2g

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Yay for Yogurt…and a recipe!

One of these days I will stop being so busy and write a post just for this blog..but for now here is my market post for this week; why yogurt is so darn good for you, and a recipe using yogurt in Eggplant Feta Rolls.  So good, especially for those who don’t LOVE eggplant (like me!).

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The link does not seem to be working so here it is:

You hear it everywhere..yogurt is so good for you.  But what exactly is it about yogurt that makes it so good?

Yogurt begins as milk, which is heated and then blended with active probiotic cultures, which are the “good bacteria” that live in our gut and help to keep us healthy.  The bacteria are then allowed to ferment the yogurt by breaking down the lactose into lactic acid, producing a thick, tangy product that is loaded with these good bacteria.  Here are a few more facts about this amazing food:

  • Many people who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt because the culturing process breaks down much of the lactose into simpler sugars, which are easier to digest.
  • Yogurt keeps the colon healthy by increasing the number of lactobacteria such as acidophilus in the colon.  These bacteria help to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Studies show that people who eat yogurt have healthier immune systems.
  • Yogurt is a great source of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and minerals.  This combination helps you to feel full for longer and can help reduce cravings.
  • The live active cultures in yogurt help to replenish the good bacteria in the intestines during and after a course of antibiotics, which kill both the good and bad bacteria.
  • Yogurt is a great source of calcium, and the live active cultures help to increase the absorption of calcium.
  • Yogurt is a great source of protein, and the culturing process makes these proteins easier to digest.

That said, not all yogurt is created equal. Live active cultures should always be listed as an ingredient in any real yogurt.  Also, don’t be fooled by “light” type yogurts that appear to be very low in sugar and calories; most of the time they are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and often contain artificial flavors too.  And if you are looking to avoid artificial sweeteners but still don’t want a lot of sugar in your yogurt, buying plain yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit and sweeteners can save you a lot of extra sugar and calories.

Better yet, just buy your yogurt from Kalypso at the market.  Their yogurt is traditionally made Greek yogurt, which means it is even higher in protein than regular yogurt because it is strained.  Kalypso’s straining process also eliminates 97% of the whey protein from the yogurt, making it very easy to digest.  Oh, and did I mention that it is ridiculously delicious and decadent?  And fat free?  It’s true.  They’ll be back at market this week, so don’t miss out!

Eggplant Feta Rolls

Adapted from Mark Bittman, New York Times, December 3, 2008

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 large eggplant*

1 Tbsp olive oil*

4 ounces feta cheese

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly chopped oregano*

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt as needed*

 

Directions

1. Leaving skin on, trim and slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces; depending on size of eggplant you should get about six slices. Lightly brush slices with olive oil. Using a grill pan, sear slices for about one minute per side until soft but not falling apart. (Or broil slices, or lay them on a baking sheet and roast them.)

2. Use a fork or small food processor to combine feta cheese with lemon juice, oregano, black pepper and just enough yogurt to produce a thick, smooth consistency.

3. On a large cutting board or work surface, lay eggplant slices out and put about a tablespoon of feta mixture at one end of each slice; roll slices up, and cut in half to serve.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per serving for 6): Calories 99; Total Fat 7g; Saturated Fat 3g; Cholesterol 17mg; Sodium 217mg; Total Carbohydrate 7g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Sugars 4g; Protein 4g

Asian Lettuce Wraps-yum yum!

Here’s a great recipe for Asian lettuce wraps using ground beef, they are super delish.  Also some great news about a new program that allows medical doctors to write “prescriptions” for fruits and vegetables.  Yahoo!! Perhaps the tables are finally beginning to turn…fingers crossed!

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Now let’s talk FISH!

My post from the market this week.  With all the controversy, should we still eat fish??

Plus a recipe for shrimp ceviche.  I have to admit I’m not usually one for ceviche, but with the fresh shrimp and produce, I gave it a try, and it was delicious!

Sorry for the lack of pics, my picture taker wasn’t at market this week, and I forgot all about it…

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