Anything that you add sugar and salt to has got to be good, right? Take ketchup for instance. A plain tomato becomes infinitely more appealing with the addition of a little sugar and salt. Ever tried to convince a small child to eat a tomato? Ever had any trouble getting a child to dip something in ketchup? Seriously, salt and sugar are the keys to getting kids (and adults) to eat almost anything. The trick is in the ratio. Even a tiny bit of sugar and salt can go a long way in making a vegetable more appealing.
Our adult palettes can get so accustomed to added sugars and salt in our food that we hardly even notice its presence. Restaurants commonly use the trick of adding extra sugar and salt to their meals to make them more appealing to customers. I've eaten restaurant meals that I would never have described as "salty" and yet hours later, I find myself with an unquenchable thirst. (Not to mention the extra 2 or 3 pounds that show up on the scale the following morning.)
I'm not going to go into the specifics of why we need to limit our sugar and salt intake but I will say that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about their value. Yes, they do make food taste better - that is not what is up for debate here. But, they do come with certain health risks if they're consumed in large quantities. Take for example this recipe that I found on the internet for carmelized salmon. (I'm choosing not to mention the site because I don't want to point the finger at any one website.) The recipe was simple. 5 ingredients + 20 minutes = a delicious "healthy" meal.
The recipe started with 2 1/2 Tablespoons of sea salt!
And added to a 1/2 cup of sugar and some fresh ground pepper.
I sprinkled that mixture on my salmon and sauteed it in a skillet.
Once the salmon was cooked in the skillet, the recipe said to sprinkle even more sugar/salt mixture on top and brown it under the broiler until carmelized.
This was more of an experiment than a recipe per se. I wanted to see if my family would notice the overly sweet and salty fish in comparison to the normally, minimally seasoned fish that I normally serve.
The scary truth is that neither Ryan or Ben even seemed to notice that the fish had been DRENCHED in sugar and salt - TWICE! What does that say about our taste buds when we can't even tell when our food has been uber-seasoned? Have we become so accustomed to the taste of sugar and salt that we don't even realize when we've our food has been overloaded with them?
We each consumed only a tiny piece of this sugary and salty salmon because I didn't want to cause my family to experience any unnecessary blood pressure issues or other health problems as a result of my experiment.
This little sugar/salt experiment was a wake up call for me. I think that I'm going to have to revisit some of my other recipes to see where I can start cutting down on sugar and salt. Time to get our taste buds back into gear and so that we are able to detect even "normal" amounts of salt in our food.
Who's with me? Anyone else ready to rethink their "healthy" recipes that are loaded with sugar and salt? We can do this together.