The Chicago Salt Experiment

- Jul• 16•13

People who give up salt find that within a few weeks they can not only do without it, but do not actually like it just as most people find after a time that tea is actually nicer without sugar. Many physicians have reported the same.

—Lewis K Dahl; 1972

My wife and I no longer like the taste of the salt in our food. We stopped adding salt to our food for health reasons, but now we simply don’t like the taste of it anymore. Of course, most people have not discovered how good salt-free food tastes.

I attended a conference in Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend and my wife accompanied me. Nearly 2,000 physicians of Indian origin and their spouses attended this conference catered by a local Chicago-based Indian restaurant. The initial meal of the 25 to be served during this four-day event was so salty that my wife literally spit out her first bite.

I wasn’t surprised since Indians are among the ethnic groups very resistant to cutting salt.

“How can you put less salt in our cooking?” says one of our close relatives who is well known in our family circles for her culinary expertise when I suggest that she cut the salt in her recipes. “The curry is going to be so bland and tasteless. Nobody is going to eat it.”

That pretty much sums up the attitude of many of my relatives. I have heard similar comments from “foodies’’ belonging to other ethnic groups.

This, however, is a cultural attitude and nothing more. You may recollect my blog post recounting the experience with salt-loving house guests past spring titled “Just Ten Consecutive Days to a Low Salt Diet”. Since I started on this journey of persuading people to cut salt in the food, people tell me on daily basis, “I cannot stand the taste of salt anymore”.

So, I want to report what happened to the salt content of the food during this meeting of 2,000-plus medical professionals. After I could not put that first meal in my mouth, I went looking for the lady in charge of catering.  

“At least half of the attendees have high blood pressure and other heart problems,” I pleaded. “They should not be eating this much salt. Is there anything you can do about this?”

Fortunately, this nice lady was also very considerate. At my request, she progressively cut back the salt in the food we were served. By the last day, the salt level was indeed very low compared to the first day.

Did anybody complain about the low salt?

No, not one single person.

The food still tasted great. Everybody still enjoyed the food as much as they had on the first day. At the end of the meeting, the attendees applauded thunderously in appreciation of the food service.

Granted, this was not as scientific as it could have been. We did not measure the actual salt level in the first day’s meals versus the last day’s meals. Nor did we measure the satisfaction levels of the attendees. But the message is loud and clear. Yes, you can very easily and dramatically cut the salt levels in ethnic foods and still enjoy the taste.

 Try it. Your body will be better for it.

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