As someone who has low, not high, blood pressure, I get a little irritated with health charities on a salt reduction crusade. Like meat haters who argue that all meat is murder, they talk in broad brush terms, wagging their fingers and telling us all that we must reduce our salt intake, ignoring the fact that some of us consume an awful lot more than others.
Anti-salt campaigners also habitually approach their pet hate in simplistic, generic terms. Just as many vegans refuse to acknowledge the substantive difference between factory-farmed and grass-fed meat, dairy and eggs, so salt haters refuse to draw any real distinction between salt added in the kitchen to home-cooked food and the bucketloads heaped into processed food in the factory.
The anti-salt lobby really loses the plot when it alights on traditional foods, such as revered blue cheeses and cured meats, and starts berating bemused producers about how they should adapt their time-honoured recipes to the modern low-salt orthodoxy. Populations around the planet have been enjoying salty foods as part of a collective diet based on unprocessed food for centuries without developing mass hypertension. In Tuscany, for instance, bread recipes are typically free from or low in salt, to complement the region’s rich repertoire of salty salumi.
“Without salt, processed foods would be well-nigh inedible”
But what exasperates me most about the anti-salt lobby is its cowardly embrace of processed food. They may lecture food processors about the perils of excessive salt, but high salt is utterly essential to that larger-than-life processed food taste.
Without salt, and a chemical sub-set of assorted flavour enhancers, processed foods would be exposed for what they are: products that have lost their natural savour and nutritional integrity. Salt-free cornflakes, for instance, would be well-nigh inedible, exposed as a heap of nutritional uselessness and misleading marketing.
I yearn for the day when anti-salt lobbyists see the pointlessness of giving our processed food barons the now-customary earful and start saying, in no uncertain terms, that we should eat home-cooked food and stop paying through the nose for processed junk.