‘Healthy’ Plant Based Meals in U.K. Restaurants Drowning in Salt

New research by Action on Salt (based at Queen Mary University of London and Bart’s Hospital) have exposed the shocking reality of many ‘healthy’ sounding plant based and vegan meals[1] being served at UK restaurants, fast food and coffee chains.

To mark Salt Awareness Week (9th-15th March 2020), the group of experts are urging the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock to implement more robust salt reduction targets – with proper enforcement – in order to create a fair and level playing field across both the retail AND eating out sectors.

Data from a recent public opinion poll to accompany the survey highlights one of the main reasons why people consume plant-based food is that they are perceived to be healthier[2]. However, this survey (the largest of its kind) of 290 plant-based and vegan meals collected from a total of 45 restaurant, takeaway, fast food and coffee chains, reveals the shocking truth about their salt and saturated fat content, and the dismal lack of nutritional information available. If food or drinks are high in saturated fat, salt or sugar (HFSS), they are not classified as ‘healthy’[3].

Restaurant Plant Based and Vegan Meals

A staggering three out of five plant-based restaurant meals surveyed with nutrition information (96/151) contain 3g or more salt – that’s half of an adult’s maximum daily intake of salt. Worse still, 19 of these provide 6g or more salt – that’s an adult’s ENTIRE maximum daily limit in just one meal!

Examples of Salty Meals:

  • Papa John’s Vegan American Hot Medium Pizza, 9.28g salt – more salt than 7 McDonald’s Hamburgers
  • Loch Fyne Spiced Roasted Cauliflower & Squash Goan Curry 8.65g salt – saltier than 19 anchovies
  • Bella Italia Vegan Cheese Pizza 8.1g salt – saltier than 23 bags of ready salted crisps
  • Chiquitos Vegarrito 7.89g salt
  • Slug and Lettuce Louisiana Chick’n Vegan Meat-less Burger 7.6g salt

If these restaurant chains were to display colour-coded nutrition information on their menus like packaged food in supermarkets, more than four out of five (127/151) plant-based meals would have a red label for high salt content (i.e. >1.8g salt in a meal)[7].

Interestingly, the variation in salt content of similar meals served at different restaurants is surprising and shows that salt isn’t needed for flavour – with some restaurants offering tasty dishes that have seven times less salt than their competitors, clearly demonstrating that these meals can easily be made with much less salt.

Fast Food & Coffee Chains Plant Based and Vegan Meals

A whopping two thirds of plant-based meals (82/128) available in fast food and coffee chains would get a red label for being high in salt (>1.8g salt per portion) – along with nearly two in five (29/128) meals containing 3g or more salt i.e. half of an adult’s maximum daily intake of salt.

Examples of Salty meals:

  • Wasabi Pumpkin Katsu Curry Yakisoba 10.3g salt – saltier than 8 McDonald’s Hamburgers
  • Wasabi Veg Tanmen Soup 9.7g salt –saltier than 21 anchovy fillets
  • EAT 3 Bean, Smoked Chili and Tomato 5g salt – saltier than 14 bags of ready salted crisps
  • Abokado THIS Vegan Katsu Curry (with sauce) 4.6g salt
  • Cojean Vegetable Gyoza Miso Soup 4.3g salt

Saturated Fat in Plant Based and Vegan Meals

AND it’s not just salty food being served up by UK restaurants, fast food and coffee chains – over half of all restaurant meals surveyed would qualify for a red label (>6g/portion) for saturated fat, and more than one in five dishes provide more than half of an adult’s maximum daily intake for saturated fat[8]. One of the worst offenders is Harvester’s The Purist Burger (served with triple cooked chips), containing 54.2g saturated fat in a meal, nearly 3 times a woman’s maximum daily intake!

Salt Targets

Public Health England’s 2017 salt reduction targets include targets for the eating out sector and are intended to guide salt reduction in the meals we eat in restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets[9]. However, of all the meals surveyed, only half (56%) have a salt reduction target in place, and of those, only 53 (32%) have failed, despite the high levels of salt reported in many of these dishes. This clearly demonstrates that the targets not comprehensive, ambitious or fit for purpose. The Government announced their commitment to reducing salt in their Prevention Green Paper last year, and are currently negotiating new targets for the food industry to achieve by 2023. The Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock must now be brave and bring these out of home targets in line with the rest of the food industry, with clear consistent monitoring across the whole industry.

When asked if they would support government taking action to ensure that the out of home sector reduces salt levels in their dishes and is transparent about the nutritional content of their meals on menus, 73% of the public said yes2.

Source: Action on Salt


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Salt content of vegan and plant-based meals served in the out of home sector . . . . .

Eating Cheese May Offset Blood Vessel Damage from Salt

Cheese lovers, rejoice. Antioxidants naturally found in cheese may help protect blood vessels from damage from high levels of salt in the diet, according to a new Penn State study.

In a randomized, crossover design study, the researchers found that when adults consumed a high sodium diet, they also experienced blood vessel dysfunction. But, when the same adults consumed four servings of cheese a day alongside the same high sodium diet, they did not experience this effect.

Billie Alba, who led the study while finishing her PhD at Penn State, said the findings may help people balance food that tastes good with minimizing the risks that come with eating too much salt.

“While there’s a big push to reduce dietary sodium, for a lot of people it’s difficult,” Alba said. “Possibly being able to incorporate more dairy products, like cheese, could be an alternative strategy to reduce cardiovascular risk and improve vessel health without necessarily reducing total sodium.”

While sodium is a mineral that is vital to the human body in small doses, the researchers said too much dietary sodium is associated with cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, with the ideal amount being closer to 1,500 mg for most adults.

According to Lacy Alexander, professor of kinesiology at Penn State and another researcher on the study, previous research has shown a connection between dairy products — even cheeses high in sodium — and improved heart health measures.

“Studies have shown that people who consume the recommended number of dairy servings each day typically have lower blood pressure and better cardiovascular health in general,” Alexander said. “We wanted to look at those connections more closely as well as explore some of the precise mechanisms by which cheese, a dairy product, may affect heart health.”

The researchers recruited 11 adults without salt-sensitive blood pressure for the study. They each followed four separate diets for eight days at a time: a low-sodium, no-dairy diet; a low-sodium, high-cheese diet; a high-sodium, no-dairy diet; and a high-sodium, high-cheese diet.

The low sodium diets had participants consume 1,500 mg of salt a day, while the high sodium diets included 5,500 mg of salt per day. The cheese diets included 170 grams, or about four servings, of several different types of cheese a day.

At the end of each week-long diet, the participants returned to the lab for testing. The researchers inserted tiny fibers under the participants’ skin and applied a small amount of the drug acetylcholine, a compound that signals blood vessels to relax. By examining how each participants’ blood vessels reacted to the drug, the researchers were able to measure blood vessel function.

The participants also underwent blood pressure monitoring and provided a urine sample to ensure they had been consuming the correct amount of salt throughout the week.

The researchers found that after a week on the high sodium, no cheese diet, the participants’ blood vessels did not respond as well to the acetylcholine — which is specific to specialized cells in the blood vessel — and had a more difficult time relaxing. But this was not seen after the high sodium, high cheese diet.

“While the participants were on the high-sodium diet without any cheese, we saw their blood vessel function dip to what you would typically see in someone with pretty advanced cardiovascular risk factors,” Alexander said. “But when they consumed the same amount of salt, and ate cheese as a source of that salt, those effects were completely avoided.”

Alba said that while the researchers cannot be sure that the effects are caused by any one specific nutrient in cheese, the data suggests that antioxidants in cheese may be a contributing factor.

“Consuming high amounts of sodium causes an increase in molecules that are harmful to blood vessel health and overall heart health,” Alba said. “There is scientific evidence that dairy-based nutrients, specifically peptides generated during the digestion of dairy proteins, have beneficial antioxidant properties, meaning that they have the ability to scavenge these oxidant molecules and thereby protect against their damaging physiological effects.”

Alba said that in the future, it will be important to study these effects in larger studies, as well as further research possible mechanisms by which dairy foods may preserve vascular health.

Source: EurekAlert

What’s the Difference Between Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, and Table Salt?

Brette Warshaw wrote . . . . . . . . .

Salt, as we learn in high school, is just NaCl: a compound made from numbers 11 and 17 on the periodic table, a material so simple that it’s treated as the most basic example of how chemistry works. So why, in real life, is salt so complicated? Why is the molar mass of NaCl taught to fidgety teens instead of the differences between the various salts we consume every day? Luckily, What’s the Difference is here to step in where your AP Chem teacher failed you.

Let’s start with table salt. Table salt is made of small, regular, cubic crystals and is usually mined from underground rock-salt deposits (rather than gathered from sea water). As much of 2% of its weight is made up of additives that keep the salt crystals from sticking together—including silicon dioxide, which is used in glass and ceramics—and then more additives to keep those additives from sticking together. It’s also the densest of the salts, which makes it the slowest to dissolve—and when it does dissolve, those additives can make something like a brine look and taste murky.

On the other side of the purity spectrum is kosher salt, which is relatively more pure than the other salts on the market. Kosher salt can come from either salt mines or the sea, and it was originally used in the koshering process of meats; the salt would remove impurities and draw the blood out of whatever animal was meant to be koshered. Lots of cooks now use kosher salt in all kinds of cooking; its coarse, uniform texture makes it easy to grab, and at around $1 per pound, it’s inexpensive.

A note about kosher salt: the two top brands on the market, Diamond Crystal and Morton, behave very differently. Morton is much denser than Diamond Crystal, and therefore a volume measurement (like, say, a tablespoon) will be “saltier” than DC. Morton also takes longer to dissolve, which makes it easier to over-salt a dish with it; if you taste a dish right after salting it, it won’t taste as salty as it will be when all the salt dissolves. When given the choice, then, many cooks typically prefer Diamond Crystal over Morton.

Moving on: sea salts, as their name implies, come from the sea; they’re produced through the evaporation of sea water or water from saltwater lakes. They often contain natural minerals, like magnesium and calcium, as well as teensy bits of natural sediments that can affect their color: think Hawaiian pink salt or French sel gris. Sea salt can come in various coarseness levels—and on the coarser end, the crystals can be irregular, making them better for garnish or texture rather than for workhorse-cooking.

If you’re looking for even fancier crystals, there’s also flake salt and fleur de sel. Flake salt, like Maldon, comes in flat, extended flakes rather than granules; those flakes are made either through evaporation or by rolling out granulated salts by machine. And fleur de sel is specifically made from the crystals that form on the sea-salt beds in central or Western France, when the humidity and breeze are just right; they’re scooped off of the surface just before they have the chance to dunk beneath the water. Sounds like fancy salt production, yes, and like a dream vacation, too.

Source: What’s the Difference

Eating Food with Too Much Salt May Cause Bloating

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you often feel bloated after a meal, don’t be too quick to blame high-fiber foods. The real culprit might surprise you.

Your gut may be rebelling because you’re eating too much salt, a new study suggests.

“Sodium reduction is an important dietary intervention to reduce bloating symptoms and could be used to enhance compliance with healthful high-fiber diets,” said study researcher Noel Mueller, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

He and his research colleagues looked at data from a large clinical trial conducted in the late 1990s known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension-Sodium, or DASH-Sodium for short.

Their conclusion: Consuming a lot of salt increases bloating, as does a healthy, high-fiber diet.

Although it’s not clear exactly how salt contributes, Mueller suspects fluid retention may be the key. Eating more salt can promote water retention and make digestion less efficient, which can lead to gas and bloating, he said.

Studies in mice have shown that dietary salt can alter the makeup of gut bacteria. And that, in turn, can affect gas production in the colon, Mueller said.

“Our study suggests that selecting foods with lower sodium content, such as those that are not ultra-processed, may help relieve bloating in some people,” he said.

Bloating affects as many as a third of Americans, including more than 90% of those with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s a painful buildup of excess gas created as gut bacteria break down fiber during digestion.

For the current study, the researchers used findings from a 1998-1999 trial. In that trial, the DASH diet — one low in fat and high in fiber, fruits, nuts and veggies — was compared with a low-fiber eating regimen. The trial’s goal was to learn how salt and other factors affected high blood pressure.

The new review found that about 41% on the high-fiber diet reported bloating, and men had a bigger problem with it than women. And diets high in salt increased the odds of bloating by 27%.

“We found that in both diets, reducing sodium intake reduced bloating symptoms,” Mueller said.

The upshot is that reducing sodium can be an effective way to prevent gas — and may help people maintain a healthy, high-fiber eating regimen.

Many things can cause bloating — lactose intolerance, celiac disease, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, infection or other conditions, said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Health.

“If someone is experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating on an ongoing basis, they should see their health care practitioner to see if the cause can be pinned down,” said Heller, who wasn’t involved with the study. “This way they will know how to manage the issue.”

Occasional bloating is not uncommon, she added.

To help you avoid excess gas and bloating, Heller offered these tips:

  • Increase physical activity.
  • Limit highly processed foods, such as fast food, frozen meals, junk food and fried food.
  • Increase your fluid intake, and make peppermint tea part of it. Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Eat more foods that are rich in fiber, such as vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Increase these slowly and in small portions, and be sure to increase your fluid intake at the same time.
  • Have smaller meals.

The report was published recently in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Source: HealthDay

Too Much Salt Might Help Spur Irregular Heartbeat

A high-salt diet could raise your risk for a common heart rhythm disorder, new research suggests.

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots or other complications. It affects millions of people worldwide and puts them at higher risk for stroke and, in rare cases, can lead to heart failure.

This study included 716 middle-aged men and women in Finland who were followed for an average of 19 years. During that time, 74 of the participants were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

Those with the highest levels of salt in their diet had a higher rate of atrial fibrillation than those with the lowest salt intake. After accounting for several other risk factors — including age, body fat, blood pressure and smoking — the researchers found that salt consumption was independently associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation.

But the study only found an association — it did not prove that a high-salt diet causes the heart rhythm disorder.

The study was published recently in the Annals of Medicine.

“This study provides the first evidence that dietary salt may increase the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation, adding to a growing list of dangers from excessive salt consumption on our cardiovascular health,” said study author Tero Paakko, from the University of Oulu in Finland.

“Although further confirmatory studies are needed, our results suggest that people who are at an increased risk of atrial fibrillation may benefit from restricting salt in their diet,” Paakko said in a journal news release.

The chances of developing atrial fibrillation increase with age, and the condition affects about 7 in 100 people 65 and older.

“With estimates suggesting that over three-quarters of salt consumed is already added in processed foods, reducing salt intake at a population level could have a hugely beneficial impact on new-onset atrial fibrillation and overall cardiovascular disease,” Paakko said.

Source: HealthDay


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