As I’m walking around my kitchen, wondering why it’s so hard to lose weight, I’ve discovered something; that sugar and salt is in almost every last food thing in my kitchen. The only product that didn’t have some hidden away in it was the olive oil.
So the question arises: Why is salt and sugar in nearly everything there is?
With the side question: If you were to cut out all the sugary salty products, what does that actually leave you with?
With salt, it’s easy: because it preserves food, and because without it, everything would be really bland and tasteless.
Sugar, especially HFCS, I’m more inclined to agree. But really, it depends on what kinds of foods you’re talking about. You seem to be talking “literally everything,” which isn’t as far from the truth as many may think, but still.
Controling water activity extends the shelf life of all processed foods.
Salt limits water activity, the moisture can still be present but the water is not available for microbes to use to grow, it is bound up by the salt or sugar. This is why you can buy moist, tender things like beef jerky or pepperoni that never seems to go bad. It is also why there is too much salt it your cat’s food, and in everything else you buy that is pre-made and ready to eat. From the canned beans on your shelf to the macaroni in your pasta jar. Bread is another major hidding place for large amounts of salt.
Both salt and sugar can be used to control water activity but salt is much cheaper, at about 5 cents a pound including shipping, it is practiacally free. Sugar is much more expensive but will do the same job. Both salt and sugar are used in the food product industry on a massive scale.
This is why you must be carefull when buying ‘low sodium’ processed foods because they are likely to be loaded up with sugar instead of salt, and cost more too.
Food processors would not be adding extra salt or sugar if it wasn’t needed to meet their needs.
Whether this is a good idea or a bad one is another thread, but shelf life is the reason, and water activity is the science behind it.
Is this really always true? I thought canned food in particular was preserved because it is sealed and heated to kill off anything that might be in it (not all canned food has added salt or sugar, and even the stuff with a lot of salt isn’t THAT salty or you wouldn’t want to eat it, except perhaps condensed soup).
At least salt doesn’t cause you to gain weight and some studies say it isn’t really bad for you, some even go so far as to claim the opposite - less salt = more heart disease, even if blood pressure drops a few points (still probably good to get reduced sodium food, as long as they add potassium and not sugar, since more potassium is something people need).