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Guilty as charged. I am one of those recovering saltaholics that grabs the salt shaker and tops off a meal before I’ve even taken a bite to see if it needs it. I love salt and although I am getting better about at least giving something a taste first, the truth is, well, I’m still recovering and fall off the wagon occasionally.

A high salt/low potassium diet is a pretty reliable ticket to the land of high blood pressure, stroke and some types of asthma. A topic of considerable attention lately has been the unbelievable amounts of sodium found in some of the most popular dishes in some of the most popular restaurants most of go to at least occasionally. Sometimes it seems to me that restaurants offerings are kind of self defeating. They make meals taste good by adding large amounts of salt and it often tastes so good that people are driven to eat every last bite, which unchecked leads to obesity.

Now perspective is a good thing. No reason to freak out if there really isn’t a reason, right? They (whoever they are) say that the maximum sodium intake for an adult should be about one teaspoon daily. I am an admitted saltaholic and if I were presented with a salt free day’s worth of meals, I doubt that I would add an entire teaspoon over the course of a day. That’s a lot of salt!

My downfall comes when I eat dinner out at a restaurant that knows two things for sure. 1. We, as a nation, love salt and want it on most everything we eat and 2. The more salt we eat the more beverages we tend to drink. Chili’s restaurants are one of the most consistent abusers of sodium out there. That one teaspoon is roughly equal to 2300 mg. Just a few of Chili’s sodium busting treats are their boneless buffalo chicken salad which sounds healthy but has 4400 mg of sodium, about twice what you should take in on a daily basis. Then there is their Southern Smokehouse Bacon Big Mouth Burger which tops the sodium scale at 4150 mg.

PF Changs has proven to be the king of salt. Their Hot and Sour Soup Bowl tips the scales at an amazing 6878 mg. 3 times the daily recommended maximum in one bowl of soup. I’m wondering if that soup really, really tastes bad and they hope that enough salt will cover it up.

Given the kind of abuse your body goes through at these restaurants, it’s a wonder that life insurance applications don’t ask where and how often you eat meals out. While hypertension and even a stroke can be underwritten at good rates, if a person is hanging out at the who’s who of salty foods, they have to present a higher mortality risk than those who actually monitor their salt intake at almost any level.

Bottom line. Eating right is simply not part of the American way of life and our habit of ignoring how food is prepared, especially the salt and fat that is used, is a recipe for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. It may be time to ask for sodium confessions before we order a meal.