How Michael Symon Really Feels About Salt

As usual, chef Michael Symon engaged with fans on Twitter this week. When user Steve Schroeder tweeted at the Food Network star to thank him for his "focus on health," he had one question: "Beside Sugar (my number one health concern), salt has huge health implications, your thoughts?" In response, Symon wrote, "Eliminating processed foods eliminates tons and tons of salt .. which allows me to season the food I make from real food properly."

This is less of a hot take than a lukewarm one; among the foods that famous chefs refuse to eat, a lot of the time, are processed items due to health reasons. "Chopped" host Ted Allen stays away from "terrible" frozen pizza, while Andrew Zimmern steers clear of processed cereals, deli meats, and bottled smoothies and juices. Though Symon may be in the same camp, one Twitter user couldn't help but notice that he has some weaknesses: "Don't you still love pickles and charcuterie? That's the stuff I have to watch out for as far as sodium, but it's so delicious," they asked the chef, who has yet to respond at the time of writing.

The salty side of processed foods

On Twitter, Symon claimed that he's able to use plenty of salt in his cooking because he avoids sodium-packed processed foods. Does his logic check out? First, it should be noted that "processed food" is a vague term. As Food Dive writes, processed food basically means any food that has undergone a process that would not naturally happen to it in the environment. This can include refrigeration or even the steps involved in cheesemaking. Most likely, Symon did not mean that you need to cut out all refrigerated foods in order to lower your sodium intake.

What most people mean by processed foods is highly processed foods. And these, as Slate reported back in 2013, in large part cause the average American to exceed the daily recommended amount of sodium by more than 1,000 milligrams. Because humans find salt addictive, food companies may feel encouraged to load up their products with sodium in order to hook you. If you want to lower your sodium intake, based on Symon's logic, you could still eat things that need to have salt in order to taste good, like pickles, but avoid overly processed foods that are salted excessively, such as certain types of white bread or frozen pizza.