Q. My husband's doctor has told him to cut down on salt because he has hypertension. I have eliminated all salt from cooking and do not use naturally salty foods. I realize that sodium is an essential nutrient, and I'm wondering whether the children are getting enough. Should I encourage them to use a salt shaker at the table?
A. Absolutely not. In the first place, normal individuals really need only about two grams of sodium a day. If you consider that a tuna fish sandwich with a glass of milk at lunch would provide roughly half of that, you can readily see that your children are getting all the sodium they need and then some just by eating an average diet without ever lifting a salt shaker.
Moreover, if they are using any condiment such as mustard, catsup and pickles or are eating prepared convenience foods, they are getting considerably more than that. Remember that sodium comes not just from the often-excessive amounts of salt many manufacturers add, but from the numerous sodium-containing additives used in food processing.
In fact, about half the sodium we take in comes from processed foods. If you eat out a lot, you're likely to be eating processed foods with more salt added by the chef.
Since we do not yet have percentage sodium labeling for packaged foods, it is impossible for the consumer to attempt to calculate just how much sodium he or she is getting each day, but estimates indicate that the average American consumes between eight and 12 grams a day, or four or six times as much as he needs. It's time we had sodium labeling.
There is sound reason to believe that a lowered sodium intake throughout life may prevent the development of hypertension in predisposed individuals. So if your husband's new dietary restriction means that your whole family has reduced its sodium intake, that's probably all to the good.
Q. I just bought some noodles that are made without egg yolks and are supposed to be lower in cholesterol. Do regular noodles really have too much egg to be used on a cholesterol-lowering diet?
A. Whether you need to be concerned about the amount of cholesterol in egg noodles really depends on your dietary habits. It is generally recommended that individuals on cholesterol-lowering diets use only two or three eggs a week. In order to stay within this limit many people eat a whole egg only occasionally. This allows them to be somewhat less concerned about small amounts of egg in processed foods or about the eggs they may add in preparing foods at home.
These individuals might well be able to use regular noodles, which contain about 50 milligrams of cholesterol per cup, or about as much as in one-fifth of an egg.
On the other hand, if you want to eat a whole egg, or egg yolk often, it becomes more important to consider the small amounts in a serving of such foods as noodles, pancakes, muffins and waffles. In this case, you would want to look for substitutes such as these noodles, which do not contain whole egg, and to use egg substitutes in your own food preparation.
Incidentally, we have tried some yolk-free noodles and found them to be quite acceptable.