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,…

Eggplant Bacon Is Here For Vegans Who Still Want Their Bacon Fix

Whatever reason you have for keeping meat out of your diet ― veganism, a vegetarian lifestyle, or taking on a healthy diet of some sort ― abstaining from bacon can be one of the trickiest challenges. No matter how much you don’t want to eat the porky, fatty meat, one smell of this breakfast staple can leave you craving it. And you’re not alone.

This addictive cured meat can be a hard thing to give We have a plant-based solution for your bacon cravings: eggplant bacon. This stuff will give you a taste of the real thing without having to break any promises you’ve made to yourself.

Eggplant bacon from The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright

We found this eggplant bacon recipe in Laura Wright’s new cookbook, The First Mess Cookbook. Wright is also the author of the popular health food blog The First Mess. Folks, we are smitten. The recipe calls on the “meaty” quality of eggplant and adds a smoky maple flavor with the addition of paprika, miso, tamari and maple syrup.

While this recipe is a great meat-free alternative to bacon for vegetarians, we think it has universal appeal for those looking to eat a little healthier. Try this plant-based “bacon” in your next BLT, and you just might soon be converted.

Reprinted from The First Mess Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2017, Laura Wright

Eggplant Bacon

10 Tips for Doing Whole30 on a Budget

If you’re just now starting on your New Year’s resolution to get healthy, you might find yourself considering the Whole30 program. The latest diet craze, which is meant to be a sort of physical reset button, requires you to cut out grains, sugars, alcohol, processed foods, legumes and dairy for a full 30 days. So basically you feast on meats, veggies, fruits, nuts and eggs.

Lots of people are jumping on the bandwagon, and not without reason. Changing your eating habits in this way can help you find trigger foods that cause you problems. And this kind of structured diet can set you on your way to a true long-term lifestyle change. (Of course, every person’s different and, if you have concerns about changing your diet, you might want to consult a professional before getting started.)

But there’s a big financial catch: The Whole30 diet can be expensive!

My husband and I have been doing a Whole30, and it’s definitely increased our grocery budget. On the one hand, this is fine. I’m OK with paying a little more for food that I know is better for my body. But I don’t want to pay a lot more, especially since we plan to stick with this style of eating for much longer than 30 days.

Doing a Whole30 may increase your grocery budget, but it doesn’t have to blow it out of the water. (That would seriously damage your wallet —and your credit. You can keep an eye on how your scores are doing for free on Credit.com.) If you decide to try this way of eating, use these tips to keep from spending way too much.

1. Don’t Worry About Going Organic

The Whole30 guide suggests going organic. After all, you want to cut out all the nastiness from the food you put into your body. But if you can’t afford organic meat, fruits and veggies, don’t sweat it. Consider just purchasing organic if your produce is on the “dirty dozen” list of foods most impacted by pesticides. The bottom line: Even conventional fruits and veggies are much better than processed foods. So go with what you can afford.

2. Get Familiar With the Best Prices

Now is a great time to get familiar with different grocery stores in your area. We personally try not to make more than two stops on our Saturday morning shopping trips. You may find it’s worth your while to make three or more stops. Consider shopping outside of the big box stores. Try your local Trader Joe’s for Whole30-approved snacks like plantain chips. We love Aldi for scoring most of our meat and produce at great prices, and local farmer’s markets may have in-season produce for a steal.

3. Keep Emergency Snacks on Hand

The first couple of weeks…

A Shocking Number Of Deaths May Be Due To Poor Diet

Nearly half of all deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes may be due to diet, a new study finds.

In 2012, 45 percent of deaths from “cardiometabolic disease” — which includes heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes — were attributable to the foods people ate, according to the study.

This conclusion came from a model that the researchers developed that incorporated data from several sources: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which are annual government surveys that provide information on people’s dietary intakes; the National Center for Health Statistics, for data on how many people died of certain diseases in a year; and findings from studies and clinical trials linking diet and disease. [7 Foods Your Heart Will Hate]

The researchers found that, in 2012, just over 700,000 people died from a cardiometabolic disease. Of these deaths, nearly 320,000 — or about 45 percent — could be linked to people’s diets, according to the study, published today (March 7) in the journal JAMA.

The estimated number of deaths that were linked to not getting enough of certain healthier foods and nutrients was as least as substantial as the number of deaths that were linked to eating too much of certain unhealthy foods, according to the researchers, who were led by Renata Micha, a research assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Tufts University in Boston.

In other words, Americans need to do both: Eat more healthy foods, and less unhealthy food.

The researchers focused their analysis on 10 food groups and nutrients: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, unprocessed red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fats from seafood, and salt, according to the study.

For each food or nutrient, the researchers identified an “optimal intake” amount. When people ate more…

Donald Trump Eats His Steak With Ketchup, And Twitter Isn’t Happy

Donald Trump eating a piece of steak.

Most people who order a 28-day dry-aged steak that costs over $50 will relish it for the carefully prepared piece of meat that it is. But Donald Trump? He’s likely to order it well done and with a side of ketchup.

According to the Independent Journal Review, that’s just what the president did when dining out at BLT Steak by David Burke in D.C. on Saturday night. We’ve…

What’s For Dinner: Beef Larb Is More Than A Funny-Sounding Word

If you have never had larb before, you are in for a treat. Larb is a meat salad popular in Laos and it is just what you need to break up your weeknight dinner routine.

Next time you find yourself with a package of ground beef, resist the urge to make burgers, meatloaf or meatballs. Instead, make this fragrant meat…

10 Vegetarian Dinners Even Meat-Eaters Will Love

Whether you’re a vegetarian or just trying to incorporate some meatless meals into your diet, you’ll love these fast, flavorful recipes — and you won’t miss the meat one bit!

This hearty vegetable stir-fry will conquer your Chinese cravings. Best part: it’s way healthier than take-out. GET THE RECIPE

Spaghetti squash is a low-carb, low-cal alternative to pasta; when cooked, it transforms into golden, spaghetti-like strands. Here, it’s tossed with marinara sauce, sprinkled with crispy breadcrumbs and cheese, and then baked until golden brown. GET THE RECIPE

This rich and creamy quiche is made with heavy cream and Gruyère. There’s also a good bit of spinach, which balances out all that richness and — dare I say — makes it just a little bit good for you. GET THE RECIPE

Quinoa looks like couscous and eats like a grain but it’s actually the…

6 Useful Tips for Spending Less on Meat at the Grocery Store

Good news for meat eaters, Paleo lovers, and Whole30ers: It’s possible to keep up with your animal-protein habits without spending last week’s paycheck at the grocery store. Whether you eat meat every day, because that’s what makes you feel your best, or you like dabbling once or twice per week to get in your protein fix, buying meat can get pricey. But it doesn’t have to… unless you’re one of those filet-mignon-only kinda folks. The world of meat is so much more than that tender cut of beef, and we’ll open your eyes to what’s out there. Save a dollar (or 10) by following these tips.

1. Buy the whole animal.

OK, we aren’t talking about bringing an entire pig home with you and having a roast (although, if you have the setup, we’re jealous, and you should do it). We’re mostly referring to chicken. It seems so easy to just buy the breasts, but when you’re talking about price, it’s best to buy the whole dang bird. This really goes for other types of animals too, because any labor incurred at the butcher counter gets added to the price tag. Boneless pork chops and rib eyes will be pricier than bone-in, and let’s not even talk about prechopped stir-fry meat. Plus, buying the whole animal means you’ll be able to use scraps for other nutritious creations (see No. 4).

2. Think outside of filet mignons.

One way to make meat eating more sustainable for the environment (meaning that you can utilize more of what the animal has to offer) is to diversify your meat selections and start integrating lesser-known cuts into your cooking routine. These less-common cuts are usually the more affordable ones, so it’s a double win. Ask your butcher to recommend some cheaper options from the case (since they’re used to going home with the stuff no one else wants… mainly because the customers don’t know what it is). A few reccos you might hear for steak are:

  • Instead of rib eye: Denver, underblade, or chuck eye
  • Instead of beef tenderloin: Teres Major (known as faux filet)
  • Thinly sliced sirloin meat or short ribs make for a flavorful stir-fry

When it comes to affordable roasts, they can be sourced from many parts of the animal. Fattier, tougher cuts like these usually benefit from a low and slow braise, which makes them perfect for wintertime stews and roasts:

  • For pork: Try the collar, shoulder, or butt
  • For lamb: Go for a whole leg…

The Reason You Never Want To Refreeze Meat After It’s Thawed

Photosiber via Getty Images

If you care about the way your meat tastes, you should never freeze it, thaw it and then refreeze it. We understand that plans change sometimes, and the dinner that you had intended to make at home just doesn’t get cooked ― we need to be flexible in life. But you should know that meat is not so flexible. And it’s never flexible for a second freeze.

Sure, you can still cook twice-thawed meat and eat it safely ― this isn’t a safety issue we’re discussing. According to the USDA, refreezing previously-thawed meat is safe to do,…

Why The 2-Million Pound Ready-To-Eat Chicken Recall Is Extra Risky

Customers aren’t as likely to heat ready-to-eat chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills bacteria.

About 2 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products have been recalled because the meat could be undercooked. But what types of bacteria could be lurking in such products as undercooked poultry?

On Sunday (Dec. 4), the food manufacturing company National Steak and Poultry announced a recall of more than 1.9 million pounds of the products, which were produced from Aug. 20, 2016, through Nov. 30, 2016, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The products were shipped to restaurants and fast-food chains throughout the country, and were also sold directly to consumers during a monthly public sale at the company.

The recalled products may have been undercooked, and so they have the potential to contain bacteria, the USDA said. [Top 7 Germs in Food That Make You Sick]

The bacterial pathogens most commonly linked with raw chicken are Salmonella and

Professional Chefs Can’t Stand These Amateur Mistakes

From a professional chef’s viewpoint, what are the main mistakes made by amateur cooks? originally appeared on Quorathe knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

First of all, improperly salting food, or not salting it at all. Tip: I always keep a ramekin of kosher salt near the stove. Salt with your fingers to get a sense of how much salt you are using, salt from about two feet above the food to get it evenly salted if you aren’t going to saute/toss it. Play with quality brand soy sauce; it’s magical.

Not resting meat. This one kills, kills me. The flavor of meat is in it’s juices. Tip: Cutting it while it is hot is going to cause all those juices to end up on your cutting board. Rest your proteins, covered in foil, for a few minutes. It’ ll make a huge difference on your plate. As for your plates, warm them up so they don’t suck all the heat from your food.

Not working clean. Wash your hands before you start working, and start working with a clean kitchen. Tip: When you are done working, your kitchen should be cleaner than when you started; clean as you go, put things in their place. In the kitchen, they say, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” Finished using a pan? Clean and dry it immediately.

Overcooking proteins. e.g. popping some beautiful salmon fillets into a super hot oven and just leaving them there. People regularly overcook carrots, green beans, steak, anything at all. I recently brought a roasted chicken to a party and one guy said “This chicken is juicy! Is chicken supposed to be juicy?” Tip: Learn how to feel meat for doneness. Cook your vegetables with a light touch. Combine searing on the stovetop with roasting in the oven for larger cuts of meat. Get a meat thermometer and slightly undercook your meat, so it finishes cooking off the heat and ends up perfect.

Using too much or too little fat, so that food is greasy or sticks to the pan and burns. Tip: When cooking food you don’t plan to brown, just enough to coat the pan. When trying to heavily caramelize food, especially meat, get a good amount of fat in the pan, watch it, so it doesn’t smoke, and then rest the meat on a rack so the excess fat can drain.

Boiling liquids that…

Should You Feed Your Dog a Vegan Diet?

Personally, I choose to live a vegan(ish) lifestyle. I really enjoy an organic, mostly plant-based diet and haven’t eaten meat in over 25 years. However, I’ve been struggling lately. After my senior dog, Sanchez, was diagnosed with E. coli, I started cooking his meals. The site and smell of meat makes me nauseous. I’ve been known to beg friends to come over for a healthy, vegan meal made by me in exchange for them cooking ground turkey for Sanchez. I started researching whether it would be a good idea to put him on a vegan diet. It would certainly align with my values.

I’ve been closely following the work of pet nutritionist Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Becker lately. Rodney recommends a combination of home cooked or raw meat combined with veggies for our pups. Watch his Planet Paws video with great detail here.

Dr. Karen Becker also finds evidence on why it’s dangerous to feed dogs a vegan diet. In Healthy Pets, she writes,

“As scavenging carnivores, dogs can survive on plant material but they can’t thrive on it alone. To thrive means to grow vigorously…