It is not exactly a secret that fast food isn’t particularly good for you. It isn’t like we hide our heads in the sand and deny the fact that it’s bad for us – or do we? Despite recommendations for adults to limit their daily sodium intake to between 1500 and 2300mg per day, many adults consume twice that much in a day. The majority of the sodium that Americans consume on a daily basis is coming from prepackaged and restaurant foods with fast food being the major culprit.
So why is it that, when the fast food industry is aware that too much sodium is dangerous to human beings, contributing to conditions like high blood pressure, that they continue to pile on the salt in staggering quantities?
Well, for one thing, salt makes cheap food taste better. Salt can hide the bland and boring taste of food that is otherwise tasteless. Many fast food products are frozen and prepackaged to the point that they can be shipped all over the country and the salt is used, not only as a preservative, but to make the food taste like something edible once it’s been cooked. Salt tastes good – plain and simple, which potentially explains our tendency to over indulge in it even when we know it is not necessarily the best thing for our health.
Another reason that fast food chains load up on the salt is that salt is an addictive anti-depressant. Experts believe that salt has an effect on the human body that is similar to a drug. It makes us feel good and improves our mood. Scientists believe that this is due to an evolutionary factor – humans needed salt to survive and so the brain figured out a way to locate it and preserve it. When we ingest salt, a pleasure signal is set off in the brain which leads to our wanting more of it, even when we have been told to limit our intake.
Fast food chains have done their homework. They know what tastes good and they know how different things affect our behavior. Whatever makes us buy more of their product, that is the route they are going to take. However, too many people remain unaware of how much sodium goes into their fast food. Take the time to educate yourself – you may end up saving your life.
Peter Janiszewski. How much salt is in your fast food order? May 6, 2010
Fast food salt levels ‘shocking’. October 18, 2007 BBC News.