The 8 best healthy food delivery services in the UK

Springbox

I'm supplementing my twice daily frozen meals from Springbox.me with an egg breakfast and protein rich evening meal.
Springbox provides delicious frozen meals – I’m supplementing my twice daily frozen meals from Springbox.me with an egg breakfast and protein rich evening meal.

What’s the deal? Springbox is a keep-it-simple food delivery service with nutritious and balanced meals cooked by Michelin-star chefs best used as a healthy back-up option to fill in the gaps when you can’t be bothered to cook.

Where do they deliver? Springbox delivers to the whole of the UK.

How good is the food? The meals are consistent and well prepared, there’s plenty of variety in the menu and the ingredients are of a high quality. It’s worth remembering that this is a frozen food delivery service – if you’re looking for refrigerated delivery services look elsewhere – but if you need the convenience of frozen food which you can reheat whenever you like, you can’t go wrong with Springbox.

How healthy do you feel? We were using Springbox to try and lose weight, and we achieved over a stone of weight loss over three months in part thanks to the Springbox meals. It’s very useful having a healthy, filling meal available at all times so you don’t stray.

How much does it cost? Springbox meals range between about £6 and £9 per meal depending on how many you order and how regularly you pay.

Who does Springbox work for? If you’ve already got a healthy diet, cook your own meals regularly, or eat out often, Springbox is a great supplementary option to fill in the gaps when you can’t be bothered to cook.

The Pure Package

What’s the deal? The gourmet cousin of the delivered-to-your-door diet plan family. A variety of menus are available for a variety of goals, including weight loss, training support, detoxes and a “Japanese Body Boost”. Not sure which one is for you? The Pure Package also provide an individual consultation with a nutritionist to tailor your diet to your exact needs.

Where do they deliver? The Pure Package is London based only, with a few postcodes outside the M25 also included. Give them a call if you’re not sure.

How good is the food? As advised by the nutritionist, we tested out the Paleo Inspired diet plan, nutrient dense and low carb. In general, the meals are excellent. The crayfish, red pepper, cauliflower rice and coriander salad was packed full of crayfish, which soothed a carb-fiend’s shock at finding that the cauliflower rice wasn’t actually rice. The dinners are also fabulous, generous portions packed full of veggies and meat – all the good stuff, no filler. The portions are a little smaller on the breakfast which was surprising, but a good snacking selection makes up for it. The sugar snap peas came with an artichoke and bean dip that we could have eaten by the spoonful, and the package is worth it just for your weekly dose of a quite ridiculously fantastic chocolate mousse.

How healthy do you feel? Pretty clean and lean. A little more peckish on some days than others – craving carves at 3pm on one day, but not feeling the need to eat the afternoon snack on the next. Given a little more time, however, I’d guess that the nutritionist had got it just right as I felt considerably less bloated by the end of the third day and with a tad more energy.

How much does it cost? A fair amount. A full programme (breakfast, lunch and dinner) for 10 days comes out at £44.95 per day. Whack the order up to 90 days and you’re looking at £35.95 per day.

Who does The Pure Package work for? Nutrition conscious folk – or those with tricky dietary requirements – looking for a completely personal (and tasty) dietary overhaul.

Mindful Chef

What’s the deal? Mindful Chef is from the Do-It-Yourself vein of food delivery services, but with a healthy twist. Recipes and all their constituent ingredients are delivered to your door, with options for 1 person, 2 person or 4 person bundles available. The good-for-you touch? All recipes are gluten free and skip the refined carbs like pasta, bread and white rice.

Where do they deliver? Nationwide, including Scotland, every Monday between 9am and 5pm (the cool bag is designed to keep your food cool for up to 36 hours, if you’re lacking a fridge at work). Sunday delivery between 3pm and 8pm is available for those within the M25.

How good is the food? For budding chefs who want half the work done for them, or seasoned cooks who are just looking for a little bit of ease, Mindful Chef has it covered. Eating out of a little black plastic tray can lose its novelty after a while: home-cooked food just tastes better. “Not with my cooking”, you say? If your culinary skills are lacking, Mindful Chef recipes are about as fool proof as they come, with all the herbs and spices measured out for you for perfect flavour. With 253 seriously good recipes on rotation, you’re not going to get bored any time soon.

How much does it cost? £9 per portion for a 1 person box, £7 per portion for a 2 person box and £6 per portion for a 4 person box.

How healthy do you feel? Your portion control will be on point as Mindful Chef only sends exactly as much as you need per meal (no wastage either). The produce is, as you can expect, as…

Avoiding a meltdown: Balancing desire for chocolate, healthier products

Chocolate curl
Photo from Barry Callebaut.

Recently, a Financial Times article by Ralph Atkins — in timely seasonal fashion for Easter — suggested that Swiss chocolate, and chocolate consumption in general, may be losing its shine and, dare we say it, melting in popularity because of health concerns.

And although Atkins does quote several analysts and trots out dire statistics to make his case, this call to alarm could be called a bit of a stretch, somewhat akin to the sensational headlines last year indicating a looming chocolate shortage.

In this new era of opinionated reporting, stringing along several statistics and facts doesn’t always provide a complete picture. While recent reports do confirm a slowing in consumption, past history suggests this is a temporary holding pattern, one that will right itself as consumers determine which kinds of chocolate will meet their eating occasions and desires.

And it’s not as if cocoa and chocolate suppliers have buried their heads in banana leaves; they are very much attuned to current health trends affecting shopping cart decisions. Take sugar, for example, which continues to be “demonized” in the press and has become a major concern among certain shoppers, the demographics encompassing mothers and Millennials, Baby Boomers and bargain hunters.

As Mark Adriaenssens, v. p. of R&D for Barry Callebaut Americas, notes, the move toward less sugar hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“Yes, our customers are inquiring about products with less sugar in them,” he says. “We can meet these requests by replacing part of the sugar with an alternative in an individual recipe or by replacing all the sugar entirely with a substitute. We see also a surge in demand for newly trending alternative sugars as maple and coconut sugar. However, taste still remains a top priority and with some sugar replacers, this can become a concern. Overall, our customers and end consumers do not want to sacrifice the indulgent taste of chocolate for less sugar.”

Rinus Hemskeerk, Olam International’s global head of innovation, concurs.

“Helping our customers keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes for healthier options is incredibly important, and something we are well positioned to do,” he says. “Equally important is that the product must taste great, which is exactly why our Cocoa Innovation Centres develop high quality, delicious products such as a dark cocoa powder without added sodium that our Latin American customers can use to reformulate their products. This provides our customers with a powder that has the same flavor and color impact, but which allows them to reduce sugar in their own recipe.”

But it’s not just about reducing sugar anymore; fat content has also entered the picture.

“Here different solutions are also possible for reducing the amount of fat; however, some fat reduction solutions can affect the ‘cleanliness’ of a product label, which is also important to keep in mind,” Adriaenssens says. “Fat also has an important function in melt, texture, and flavor delivery of the chocolate, and for an indulgent item like chocolate, consumers generally don’t want to sacrifice taste for less fat.”

Moreover, with cocoa and chocolate there are several options to consider. Hemskeerk notes that Olam International produces a range of cocoa powders for its customers with varying levels of fat.

“As the level of fat required depends on what product is being produced, we leave the decision of what to use regarding their own formulations up to them,” he says. “However, as consumers are more health conscious, a driver for us is to make our products as ‘clean-labelled’ as possible. Here, our natural cocoa powders come to play; they are not alkalized, yet provide the same color, flavor and functionality in application.”

To address this niche, The Blommer Chocolate Co. developed the Wonder Line, indulgent and creamy white, milk, dark and yogurt coatings that have significantly reduced calories, fat and saturated fat. The reduction in calories ranges from 36-37 percent, the total fat is reduced by 60-63 percent and the total saturated fat is lowered by 63-66 percent, depending upon the type (i.e. white vs. dark).

According to the company, any number of claims may be made, depending on the application and what is being created. Low Fat, Reduced Calorie, Reduced Fat, Reduced Saturated Fat claims may be made depending on the application and usage level. It comes down to permissible…

This recipe proves that there’s a healthy way to have chocolate for breakfast

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Photos: Botanica

Thanks to unicorn everything, breakfast is starting to regain a little bit of its childhood magic—you know, back when cereals in wildly artificial colors were the only thing that could get you out of bed in the morning. (Other than a new episode of Saved By The Bell, that is.)

But let’s get real: As fun as it is to mix elaborate pastel spreads for your toast, it’s not always possible to make an Insta-worthy breakfast when you’re rushing to work.

Los Angeles-based chefs Heather Sperling and Emily Fiffer have figured out a simpler, yet still healthy, way to bring some of those fourth-grade vibes into your busy weekday mornings: cacao coconut granola. The mineral- and antioxidant-rich concoction is currently on the menu at their new Silver Lake restaurant and market, Botanica, which just debuted (along with its own companion culinary e-zine).

“Packed with cacao powder and nibs, and sweetened only with honey, it’s an excellent energy booster.”

“We love this granola because it’s an awesome, wholesome excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast,” says Sperling. It’s also super-energizing (without any accompanying sugar crash), thanks to the fact that the only sweetener in it is honey. Just ask the chef: “We’ve been sustaining ourselves throughout the insanity of our restaurant opening with handfuls of it nearly every hour, on the hour.”

The duo likens their creation to grown-up Cocoa Puffs, so it makes sense that they’d dish it up it in an elevated way, too. “At Botanica, we serve the granola with house-made cashew-date milk, organic cow’s milk, or sheep’s-milk yogurt…

12 Simple Meals That Make Weeknights Special

Do you have a hard time remembering what you ate for dinner the night before? That won’t happen with these memorable meals. From a crazy-delicious Crustless Broccoli Quiche to a one-pot White Chicken Chili, you’ll be thinking about these simple suppers long after the dishes are done.

There’s really only one way to put it: this quiche is insanely delicious. And I promise you won’t miss the crust! It reheats beautifully so feel free to make it ahead or warm it up for tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch. GET THE RECIPE

This dish is a MAJOR family-pleaser and can be made in just 30 minutes from ordinary supermarket ingredients. And the beauty of “bowls” is that everyone can create their own. GET THE RECIPE

Sun-dried tomato pesto gives these grilled cheese sandwiches a gourmet twist. My son calls them “pizza paninis” since they taste like hot, crispy pizza sandwiches. GET THE RECIPE

You’ll love these fresh, crisp lettuce cups filled with Thai-style minced chicken. Whenever I make it for dinner, I have to force myself to put the leftovers in the fridge right away before starting the dishes, otherwise I’ll finish them off while no one is watching. GET THE RECIPE

I’ve had Coconut Shrimp at many restaurants, but this homemade version beats them all. It’s remarkably easy to make: you can do all of the prep in advance, and the sauce…

How PepsiCo Is Transforming Itself Into A ‘Healthier’ Company

A general view of Pepsi And EMPIRE Celebrate Season Three Partnership With Viewing Party Of Musical Tribute ‘When Cookie Met Lucious’ at W Midtown Atlanta on May 10, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The primary driver of PepsiCo‘s revenues in Q1 2017 was its portfolio of healthy snacks and beverages. The company’s organic revenues grew by 2% in the quarter and Mexico and Russia saw high single digit organic revenue growth. As PepsiCo works towards transforming itself to adapt to the changing customer preferences of healthier lifestyles and aims to limit its environmental footprint, the company has adopted a motto of “Performance with Purpose.” In order to meet the evolving needs of customers globally, the company is shifting its portfolio to a wider range termed as “Everyday Nutrition Products.” These products contain nutrients such as grains, fruits, vegetables, or protein, and the portfolio falls under a broader category of “Guilt Free Products” which also includes beverages which have less…

How to: Making your own healthy salad dressings

iStock_salad-dressing-DIY-3x2
iStockphoto

Long gone are the days of hearty soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables that kept our souls warm and our bellies nourished all winter long. Spring and Summer mark a time to celebrate fresh, light, and vibrant vegetables. It’s salad season!

While salads are probably one of the healthiest meals of all, how we dress our salad can totally make or break our healthiest intentions. In fact, store bought dressings can oftentimes be what I call the “undo” button, capable of completely sabotaging what could have been a delicious and nourishing meal.

Don’t believe me? Head to your fridge or pantry, pick up a store-bought dressing, and take a glance at the list of ingredients. More times than not, you will find a long list of highly processed ingredients, including sneaky sugar, excess sodium, and highly refined oils, along with an assortment of artificial additives and preservatives.

So, how do we dress our salads for success? You can start by learning what to look for when reading the nutrition label of store-bought salad dressing, which I explained in detail here. And while there are a few good products currently on the market, such as Tessemae’s All Natural Dressings, the truth is, you’re better off making your own. DIY dressing is a no brainer – it’s healthier, more affordable, and puts you back in the driver’s seat.

The idea of making your own salad dressing may feel intimidating, but after a little practice, it becomes second nature. To make it extra simple, here’s a step-by-step guide to DIY salad dressings.

DIY DRESSING: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to making a salad dressing, I follow a simple acronym: FASSS — Fat, Acid, Seasoning, Salt & Sweet. FASSS represents the 5 key components of a delicious and nutrient-rich salad dressing, with no recipe required! Let’s break it down:

  • Fat: Fat serves many purposes! It brings a creamy texture to your salad dressing and serves as an emulsifier that holds all the other ingredients together. Fat also acts as a chauffeur for your salad’s nutrients. Did you know that many of our nutrients are “fat soluble”? That means they need fat to help transport them from our GI tract to our cells. Without fat, our nutrients never reach our cells and we lose out on reaping their health benefits. This is why fat-free salad dressings are actually counterproductive. Try one of these high-quality fats: Olive oil, flax oil, nut and seed butters like tahini or almond butter, organic yogurt, hummus, or a mashed up avocado.
  • Acid: Acid brightens up your salad dressing, bringing a nice tang to every bite. Think: vinegars and citrus fruits. There are so many different vinegars to explore: red wine, white wine, apple cider, sherry, balsamic, white balsamic, rice vinegar – each of these has a unique flavor. You can also use lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits .
  • Seasonings: Here’s where you get to add some personality to your dressing. Add garlic, some minced onions, scallions, or shallots, or mix it up with ginger or different herbs and spices. Think of what kind of flavor profile you’re craving — whether it’s Asian, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean — and let that direct you towards seasoning combinations commonly used in these areas of the…

Side Orders: Fresh fruits burst with flavors

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Our local farmers markets are beginning to bloom, filling up with deliciously fresh fruits.

According to cookbook author, pastry chef and bakery owner Lei Shishak, there’s no better way to enjoy them than in a made-from-scratch dessert, such as one featured in her recently released cookbook, “Farm to Table Desserts: 80 Seasonal, Organic Recipes Made From Your Local Farmers Market” (Skyhorse Publishing, $23).

“I started gardening in 2015 and immediately fell in love with growing my own fruits and vegetables,” she says. “I learned a lot from a neighbor who stressed the importance of growing organically. It was really this personal love of gardening that prompted me to write a book focused on farm-to-table recipes.”

But she cannot grow everything, so she frequents her nearby farmers market, and early summer is her favorite time to do so, primarily, Shishak says, for the first crop of strawberries.

“Farmers markets are such a wonderful environment,” she notes. “I love talking to the farmers directly and hearing their passion for their offerings.”

Anyone who’s visited Chattanooga Market or any other farmers market in our area knows well of which she speaks. With each visit, Shishak says, she gets motivated to create new recipes around crops grown by people who put the time and effort into raising them and bringing them to market to share.

When we shop at farmers markets, we support our local economy and consume food that’s healthier, tastier and packed with essential nutrients specific to our local environment.

“I believe that interest in healthier foods will continue in people of all ages who care about what goes into their bodies,” she says. “More areas are increasing the number of organic options available to consumers, and that healthy trend should continue as the results of eating healthier are felt by more and more people.”

She’s hard-pressed to come up with any one favorite fruit, but strawberries are among her favorites, mainly because so many of her friends and bakery customers at Sugar Blossom Bake…

8 great gluten-free whole grains

amaranth

Even if you aren’t avoiding gluten, these whole grains are a worthy addition to anyone’s pantry.

It’s little wonder that for many people, giving up gluten makes them feel better. Going gluten-free means no wheat flour, which means no basic refined flour, which means a drastic reduction in processed and nutritionally insipid foods – foods that can make people feel sluggish, bloated and crummy. The problem is that giving up gluten also leads to giving up grains in general, and doing so can have a negative impact on health.

“And any time you eliminate whole categories of food you’ve been used to eating, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies,” Peter H.R. Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, tells WebMD. “Unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” he adds.

The trick is to keep healthy whole grains in your diet, regardless if you are one of the several million Americans with Celiac disease (who have no choice but to stop eating gluten) or if you are one of the zillion others avoiding gluten for whatever reason. And even if you are a gluten-embracer, it’s always great to mix up the nutrients. With that in mind, the following whole grains all offer a nutritional boost, while also happening to be gluten-free.

1. Amaranth

amaranth

This “pseudo-grain” was a major food crop of the Aztecs and has a remarkable nutritional profile, boasting loads of calcium as well as high levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Unique for grains, it contains Vitamin C – and it has a protein content of 13-14 percent, making it higher than most other grains.

Uses: Salads, baking, cereal, soups. And you can pop it like popcorn, too.

2. Buckwheat

Buckwheat granola
Bob’s Red Mill

Buckwheat has higher levels of zinc, copper, and manganese than most grains – it also provides a very high amount of protein. It is rich in lysine, and its amino acid score is 100, which is one of the highest amino…

Is Halo Top Ice Cream Actually Healthy?

I can confirm that Halo Top ice cream does indeed taste amazing.

After hearing hype for months about this low-calorie, high-protein “healthy” ice cream, I finally caved and bought a pint of their Black Cherry. I devoured it in minutes and was amazed at how much it tasted like traditional ice cream. If I went to a scoop shoppe and someone served me a bowl of Halo Top, I wouldn’t think twice. I would think it was some pretty great ice cream.

But there’s a common saying in the nutrition world—if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Just because a product’s low in calories doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. Heck, zero-calorie diet soda has its own set of issues. So, is Halo Top ice cream actually healthy? Here’s your answer.

Getting The Facts Straight

Halo Top Ice Cream
Photo via Halo Top’s official Facebook page

Before we dive into the ingredients in Halo Top, let’s discuss its nutrition facts.

In short, they’re spectacular—at least compared to the nutrition facts for traditional ice cream. Halo Top is currently available in 17 flavors. Each flavor falls in the range of 240-360 calories per pint. Let’s focus on the chocolate variety, since it’s fairly simple.

One pint of chocolate Halo Top ice cream contains:

280 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 160 mg of cholesterol, 440 mg of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 40% DV calcium, 16% DV iron.

Now, let’s compare that to one the most popular traditional ice cream brands in the world—Häagen-Dazs. The nutrition facts for one pint of chocolate Häagen-Dazs ice cream:

1,040 calories, 68 grams of fat, 40 grams of saturated fat, 360 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 88 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, 76 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein, 32% DV calcium, 32% DV iron.

There’s really no contest—Halo Top blows traditional ice cream out of the water in almost every important nutritional category (especially for those concerned with weight management). The calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar totals for Halo Top are a fraction of what’s inside traditional ice cream. Halo Top does this while being just as high in fiber and protein as the traditional brands (if not more so). It’s still ice cream, so it can’t replace veggies, fruit, whole grains, etc. in your diet. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a delicious dessert with more impressive nutrition facts than Halo Top.

The next question is how the heck do they do it?

Ingenious Ingredients

Ice Cream
One reason Halo Top is able to keep their calorie count and sugar totals so low is because, unlike traditional ice cream manufacturers, they actually use a trio of sweeteners in their product.

The most prominent is erythritol, an all-natural sugar alcohol that looks and tastes like sugar yet contains just 0.24 calories per gram. The second most prominent is organic cane sugar—which is basically a fancy way of saying plain ol’ sugar. Sugar contains 4 calories per gram. A pint of Halo Top contains 20 grams of sugar, so 80 of those calories can be directly attributed to its sugar content. The third sweetener is stevia, a plant native to Paraguay that’s long been used as a low-calorie natural sweetener. It contains no calories and is roughly 250 to 300 times the sweetness of sugar.

Let’s crunch the cumulative calorie numbers for these sweeteners:

  • Stevia contains no…

Good-for-you chocolate chip recipes for National Chocolate Chip Day

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day (There’s also a National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day on Aug. 4, if you’re keeping track of such things), so we figured that was as good a reason as any to spotlight a few of the healthier chocolate cookie choices on shelves.

Not surprisingly, that’s much easier said than done.

It’s pretty much impossible to find a truly healthy cookie on store shelves – real cookies – not protein bars flavored or shaped like cookies. We’re not saying they’re not out there; they’re not in the many New Orleans grocery stores that we visited.

Plenty are marketed-as-better-for-you chocolate chip cookies, however, but each has its drawbacks:

The seemingly diabetes-friendly Murray’s Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies are still essentially just white flour and artificial sweeteners (acesulfame potassium and sucralose) – and cookie-for-cookie, they’re about the same calories and carbs as a Chips Ahoy cookie, which has 160 calories and 22g carbs for three cookies.

Vegan chocolate chip cookies may look promising, like those by the Alternative Baking Company, but feature white flour, sugar and a host of other not-exactly-nutritious-yet-still-vegan ingredients, such as potato starch, salt and an oil blend. And the stats for each are staggering: 460 calories and 34 grams of sugar in a single cookie.

Another vegan cookie showing up more often on stores shelves is Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie with “baked nutrition” (whatever that means). Labeled as non-GMO with no dairy, no soy and no egg, each vegan cookie crams in 360 calories and 28 grams of added sugar. With more than a day’s worth of sugar, these aren’t much better than the Alternative Baking Company.

I was hopeful when I saw Munk Pack’s Gluten-Free Protein Cookie (available online), as it has more protein (9 grams) than sugar (8 grams). Problem is, each cookie is two servings – which translates to 16 grams of sugar (and 380 calories) for a single cookie. But of the brands and stats I’ve seen so far, this is among the better of the options. They’re individually packaged, too, which helps with portion control.

Build a better (for you) mac and cheese

A step-by-step guide to build a better mac and cheese, plus 3 nutritious pre-packaged options and 3 good-for-you recipes

I’ve run across two store-bought chocolate chip cookies that are a little better in terms of carbs, calories and sugar: Aunt Gussie’s Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies and Emmy’s Organic’s Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies, both at natural foods stores, such as Whole Foods Market.

Aunt Gussie’s Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies are made with a blend of refined and whole grain spelt flour (spelt is a gluten-containing grain that can be easier for some people to digest, compared to traditional wheat), with no sugar added. Sweetened with maltitol, each crispy cookie has just 60 calories, 0 sugar, and 5.5 grams of net carbs.

Emmy’s Organic’s Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies are more like cookie dough than baked cookies – and you’ve got to like coconut. Gluten free and vegan, these grain-free “cookies” are made with coconut, agave, chocolate chips, almond flour, and coconut oil. Each cookie bite has 100 calories, 8 grams of carbs and 6 grams of sugar. Our informal group of taste testers agreed that they could do the trick to satisfy a hankering for a chocolate chip cookie.

5 ways to build a better, healthier Eggs Benedict

Five easy ways to build a better-for-you Eggs Benedict, plus a recipe for the delicious and nutritious Smoked Salmon Benedict from The Ruby Slipper.

We couldn’t find just what we were looking for on shelves, so we tested out a batch of recipes, and narrowed it down to the three below so we could build a better chocolate chip cookie ourselves.

All are made with little or no added sugar and fiber-rich whole grains, flours or legumes; all three are gluten-free, and one is vegan….

Why Everything We Know About Salt May NOT Be Wrong

A recent New York Times column offered us this provocative headline: Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong. Presumably that means- it may be right, too. Hence, my counter-headline.

I think what we know mostly is right. Here’s what I think we know:

Too much salt is bad for us. That one is almost tautological, since if it weren’t bad for us, it wouldn’t be too much.

Most of us consume too much salt. Most of the salt we consume- roughly 80%- is processed into foods we didn’t prepare ourselves. Eat less of those processed foods- especially hyper-processed foods, processed meats, and fast food- and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds – and you’ll be better off for many reasons both related and unrelated to salt. Prepare meals at home from wholesome ingredients when possible and you’ll be better off. Drink plain water preferentially when thirsty- and you’ll be better off again. That’s what I think we know, and I think it’s all correct. If you like to get your punch lines and move on, our work here is done.

For the rest of you:

What we seem not to know about salt is the ideal intake level, and in particular, variations in that level based on age, health status, and genetics, among other factors. But we have long known that sodium is an essential nutrient, that we all need some, and that it’s possible to consume too much or too little. Debate about where best to draw the dividing line, and in particular whether it should be drawn in different places for different populations, is more a matter of refinement than refutation, evolution rather than revolution. It’s how science is supposed to advance.

The source of the new provocation presented to us in the Times is two research papers recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, one involving mice, the other ten male cosmonauts in a simulated space environment. If that sounds like a somewhat dubious start to a dismissal of decades of research involving actual human beings, in much larger numbers, and subject to such pesky nuances as living in earth-like conditions, I’m inclined to agree. Mice and cosmonauts may teach us interesting new things about salt, but they are unlikely to reveal that everything learned to date is wrong.

Looking at the studies, they did no such thing. As acknowledged by the Times reporter, the papers are rather dense, enumerating a great many measures in recondite detail. For our purposes here, the gist will do.

The investigators found that both the ten healthy men in their simulated space station, and C57/BL6 mice are good at conserving levels of body water across a range of sodium intake. Complex hormonal fluctuations, some directly in response to diet and some part of underlying body rhythms, allowed for marked variation in the excretion of sodium (i.e., its removal in urine) without corresponding changes in urine volume. We have long known of the kidneys’ ability to concentrate or dilute urine over a wide but finite range, and these findings fit comfortably within that expanse of understanding.

Translating their own findings into succinct take-away messages, the researchers suggest that, in mice, “the kidneys, liver, and skeletal muscle form a physiological-regulatory network for extracellular volume control…” In plain English, the kidneys and other organs in the body work together, under the influence of various hormones,…

4 Plant-Based Gluten-Free Recipes for a Springtime Meatless Monday

Sorghum pesto salad
Image care of Blissful Basil

We’re positively giddy over all of the delicious spring produce at our farmers markets right now, and we’re having so much fun trying to find new and exciting ways to serve it up. These meatless recipes don’t just feature spectacular spring veggies like peas, spring onion, and asparagus, but they’re also gluten-free, so you can share them with all of your family and friends, no matter their dietary choices and restrictions – and especially on Meatless Monday.

Sorghum is a great alternative to bulgur wheat that’s gluten-free and high in fiber. In this recipe from Blissful Basil, it forms the base for a yummy salad made with an omega-rich hempseed pesto. Arugula adds a peppery bite to the pesto – and the salad – while sweet currants bring a welcome note of sweetness.

Minted Spring Green Peas Paté

image via Shutterstock

This vegan pâté