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Cherylyn Harley LeBon, FDA guidelines on Salt
Cherylyn Harley LeBon is Co-Chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. Cherylyn averages over 300 radio/television interviews and news article citations per year on behalf of Project 21.
Cherylyn is currently President and CEO of KLAR Strategies, LLC, a public affairs firm. She previously served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush Administration; as a spokesman at the Republican National Committee; and as Senior Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. She is a frequent guest on the FOX News Channel and national broadcast radio shows, and is a contributor to Townhall and Politicalistas. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food here on August 12, 2014. Alright let’s talk about salt shall we? My next guest is Cherylyn Harley Lebon and she is the co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. She averages over three-hundred radio television interviews and news article citations per year on behalf of Project 21. She’s currently president and CEO of KLAR Strategies, a public affairs firm. She previously served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, as a spokesman at the Republican National Committee, and a senior council for the US Senate Judiciary Committee. She is a frequent guest on the FOX news channel and national broadcast radio shows, and is a contributor to Townhall and Politicalistas. All right, welcome to It’s All About Food Cherylyn.
Cherylyn Lebon: It’s great to be with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you very much. I’m having a good day, how about you?
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m having a great day!
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Alright, you want to talk about the proposed federal guidelines on salt?
Cherylyn Lebon: Right. So I get where they’re coming from. I think it’s a laudable goal to try and get people to reduce the amount of sodium in their food because as we know, there’s a lot of sodium in processed foods. As most Americans probably would admit, we probably eat too much processed food here, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Cherylyn Lebon: However, what troubles me Caryn is that this sort of across-the-board guideline that people are told and are given, what troubles me is that not everyone is alike. We have different bodies, we have different medical issues and while it is a great idea to get people to reduce sodium in their food, and I might add it’s a great idea to get people to do lots of things.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree, so far we are totally in line.
Cherylyn Hartglass: I think people should reduce their smoking. I think people should reduce drinking. There’s a whole lot of things that I think people should do. I think people should reduce the amount of coffee they’re drinking. I think people probably eat too much fast food. The whole thing. But the problem is, when we do this sort of, everybody needs to reduce their sodium by so many milligrams a day, that’s not true for everyone Caryn. And the example I put in my article is for pregnant women. I have two children. I’ve given birth to two kids and salt is the main way to get iodine to the thyroid glands. And when you’re pregnant, all of the organs in your body are in overdrive. So for pregnant women, they are at an additional risk for iodine deficiency because of the increased thyroid hormone production which growing babies need for brain development. As someone who breast fed their children until they were two years old, breast feeding moms need higher iodine intake as a necessary nutrient for enfant growth. So if I were pregnant or breast feeding right now, this would not be the best advice for me Caryn because I would need that. I would need that.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree that iodine is very important. We all need it. We’ve learned a lot through history how it’s important for the thyroid and how it’s important for pregnant women as you say. But half a teaspoon of iodine salt gives us about 1150 mg of sodium and that gives us all the iodine we need. We don’t need to get additional sodium from salt in our fast foods and our restaurant foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: But think about it though Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve thought about it a lot!
Cherylyn Lebon: If you’re a breast feeding woman and the FDA says okay you need to reduce your intake further by so many milligrams a day, I can tell you again that someone who breast feed their kids since they were two years old and as someone who needed those calories, my doctor was watching and doing my salt intake and thyroid test. I needed that additional and that advice would’ve been not very good at all for me.
Caryn Hartglass: I think you got to be very careful here because salt and iodine are not the same.
Cherylyn Lebon: They are not.
Caryn Hartglass: What we’re really talking about and what the FDA is really talking about is the added salt in fast foods, processed foods and restaurant foods. Most of those foods do not use salt with iodine. Most food manufacturing companies do not use salt with iodine.
Cherylyn Lebon: Right. But you know Caryn I don’t eat that kind of food. That’s not how I’m getting my calories. I don’t need that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, where do you get your calories then? Where are you getting your food from?
Cherylyn Lebon: Well I eat a lot of vegetables.
Caryn Hartglass: Great.
Cherylyn Lebon: I don’t eat a lot of meat. And so I really need to watch in particularly when your breastfeeding because you need a high amount of calories every day, so I really needed to watch that.
Caryn Hartglass: So you can have easily taken a supplement and know exactly what you’re getting.
Cherylyn Lebon: I had all of those.
Caryn Hartglass: You can eat sea vegetables or you can have a little bit of salt but you don’t need additional sodium without iodine from fast food, restaurant food or anything like that. That’s what the FDA is talking about. And they’re really talking about the fact that the average American gets 3400 mg or more of sodium a day which we know is a major cause of…
Cherylyn Lebon: But you know what, I don’t agree with that. I still think the FDA has to be really careful because I’ll tell you, I think their guidelines are great for people that have hypertension and that have issues where they really need to reduce their sodium. Okay, I get that and that’s great. But those people probably are under a doctor’s care and are getting that advice.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess it’s not making any sense to me because people who are paying attention to this and want to get the right amount of iodine for whatever their needs are and they are working under a doctor’s care, they’re going to be fine. But it’s the people that don’t know anything about nutrition, are not reading labels and are not paying attention. They’re eating at restaurants, they’re getting processed foods and they’re getting salt without iodine, way too much sodium. Heart disease is the major cause of death. Stroke is the major cause of all the heart diseases.
Cherylyn Lebon: It is but Caryn, I get that. I think we agree, I get that. Those people should reduce their salt intake.
Caryn Hartglass: But they can’t if they’re eating fast food, processed food, and restaurant food…
Cherylyn Lebon: Well you know what Caryn, those people are going to have problems anyhow. Yes it’s sodium but they shouldn’t be eating that food in the first place anyhow!
Caryn Hartglass: But that’s what these voluntary guidelines are all about and they are voluntary. They are directed towards the manufacturers of food.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, it’s not just the voluntary guidelines with respect to sodium. It is trans-fat and all of these things that the government is trying to encourage to people to eat that food.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we shouldn’t be eating trans-fat, you know that.
Cherylyn Lebon: But you know what? You can’t control what people eat. People have choice and they’re going to make that.
Caryn Hartglass: No you can’t but you know when I go to a restaurant and I don’t go out very often because the food is too salted. Now I went out this weekend because it was a special event and I met with people, family and friends, and ate in a restaurant. I came home and I had such dark circles under my eyes and my muscles got stiff because I don’t eat a lot of salt. When I got out and consume food that people are eating everyday that has way too much salt in it, it affects me negatively and many other people. What’s wrong with having a low amount of salt added into food, salt that doesn’t have iodine in it and people that want to add salt to their food, it’s that easy. You can’t take it out but you can put it in.
Cherylyn Lebon: They’re welcome to do that but here’s the thing Caryn. It’s not just the fact that sodium is added to the food. When I go to restaurants, I ask people how they prepare their food and if it’s not prepared the way that I think it should be prepared, we leave. People really need to be a little bit more curious about the food their eating. If they think that it’s not working for them and they’ve got health restrictions, then they need to ask questions. Again, people need to be taking responsibility for what they eat instead of blaming everyone else. I’m just not buying it Caryn. I’m not buying it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m not blaming anybody. I’ve been a vegan for over 25 years. I know all about asking questions in restaurants, believe me, I’ve been doing it most of my life. But when we’re talking about food that’s out there, it doesn’t make sense that it’s loaded with salt. You can’t take it out.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, it’s not just salt. There are a lot of other additives. I’m not convinced either that salt is the problem here with food that’s being prepared, processed food and in restaurants. There are a whole lot of other additives and I don’t think that salt is necessarily the so-bad guy. There is MSG. I mean you’re a vegan for 25 years. You go into the grocery store and you read the ingredients in food don’t you? You see that there’s 25, right? I stopped reading after two or three. You know what, this isn’t what I am going to feed my kids. The other day I went in and I tried to buy popsicles for the kids. My mother and I left out of the grocery store we said we just can’t buy them. It’s a hot day, we’re at the beach and I’m sorry I can’t get my children these things.
Caryn Hartglass: Artificial colors, tons of sugar and “real fruit”.
Cherylyn Lebon: Well it’s beyond that. It is carageenan, and it’s all sorts of things, which just aren’t going to work for our family. But the bottom line here is, to make salt the boogey man, I think we are unfairly picking at one industry when there’s a number of other industries that produce additives. And if we are going to play the blame game, then we need to blame everybody.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay I’m blaming everybody! Part of the problem is that the FDA is so insufficiently funded that they can barely do the job that they say they are going to do. I agree and I would like to have a lot more regulations on our food and I would like to see organic plant food encouraged as the basis of our diet. We shouldn’t have toxic pesticides and herbicides in our food.
Cherylyn Lebon: Well I wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that Caryn because I think that, once again, you can’t regulate what people eat because people are going to decide…
Caryn Hartglass: But you should give them the simplest form and if they want to sicken it and fill it up with toxins and whatever else they want, people are free to do that. But I want to start with clean food. When the foods, that are supported by our tax dollars, subsidies and benefits, contain toxic chemicals and pesticides, who needs that?
Cherylyn Lebon: People have the choice. They can read the labels and they can educate themselves. People have heard of Google and that’s just a wonderful thing about technology. If you are curious about what you are eating, you have the ability. If you don’t have internet at home or a computer, you can go to one of our fabulous public libraries in our country, get on the computer and read about all the wealth of information that’s available. You have the power to make the choice about what you eat, right?
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right but the problem is that most people are not that savvy and they’re not focused in nutrition.
Cherylyn Lebon: If you can read, you can find this information. If they are illiterate, then we’ve got other problems.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I know but they can go to your blog for example and some of the things that you’ve said are very vague. I think it can lead people down the wrong path. I just want to mention one more thing about…
Cherylyn Lebon: Well then they can fact check my information Caryn, they can fact check it. If they don’t like it, they can fact check it. But I’ll tell you, I don’t like the FDA giving this type of broad advice to people who may not have hypertension, who may not have diabetes and who may need a certain level of sodium intake because of their particular health needs. I’m not comfortable and I come from a family with several doctors. If they’re not doctors then I also have people in my family who work in affiliated health fields. They’re either physical therapists or occupational therapists or work in labs. So I’ve grown up around people who are concerned about what they feed their children, what they feed their families and again, processed food might not be great for a lot of people but that’s the choice they make.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you think about the plumping of chickens, injecting salt solutions into meat in order to increase its weight, increasing the amount of sodium unnaturally, then being labeled natural?
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m not prepared to blame sodium because they’re injecting the chickens.
Caryn Hartglass: So you think that’s okay for manufacturers? Because a lot of them do.
Cherylyn Lebon: No I don’t, I didn’t say that. Not at all.
Caryn Hartglass: But they do it because they are allowed to.
Cherylyn Lebon: But they also inject the chickens with lots of other things. Why are we picking on salt?
Caryn Hartglass: Well hey, I’m not eating it and I tell people not to eat it. Salt is one of the things that manufacturers do…
Cherylyn Lebon: And it’s also in antibiotics and all sorts of other things. Again Caryn, you’re picking on salt but my dear, there’s a whole lot of other things! If you’re going to have a problem with salt, you’re going to have a problem with a litany of other things.
Caryn Hartglass: What we talk about here on It’s All About Food is eating a diet that is based on organic plant foods, minimally processed whole foods with very low salts, sugars and added oils.
Cherylyn Lebon: That’s something for everyone to strive for, isn’t that great?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely and we can agree on that.
Cherylyn Lebon: And that’s something for everyone to strive for. But again Caryn, I can’t tell people to do that. What works for my family and what works for you may not work for everybody. We shouldn’t be in the business of being the food police and telling people…
Caryn Hartglass: No but what the government needs to do is make the healthiest foods affordable and they’re not doing that. They need to have guidelines to direct people towards the healthiest foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: So you think it’s the government’s job to make food healthy and affordable?
Caryn Hartglass: They should make the healthiest foods the most affordable, yes, because right now they’re not. Right now they are making cereals to be grown to feed animals to feed people the most affordable. They’re making corn syrup…
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, I think there are a whole lot of other problems with what you’ve said because let me tell you something. I don’t know the last time you’ve been to a impoverish neighborhood but I go to plenty. Those places are food deserts.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes I know all about them.
Cherylyn Lebon: But those bodegas in New York City, do you know what they’re selling there? And why is that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s don’t go into the hood?
Caryn Hartglass: They know their demographics, absolutely.
Cherylyn Lebon: Because they get no incentives to go in there. They get no tax breaks to go in there. How about if the government focuses on some incentives so that these impoverish neighborhoods aren’t food deserts. So that farmers’ markets…
Caryn Hartglass: I absolutely agree with that but you know what’s there, fast foods are loaded with salt.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, again you’re picking on salt and I’m telling you there’s a whole lot of other problems besides salt, my dear. And if that is all these people have to eat, then my goodness where do you think they’re going to eat? Where do you think they’re going to go to feed their families? That’s all they’ve got and then the bodega only has canned food, canned peas and canned string beans. Are the farmers’ markets in their neighborhood? No.
Caryn Hartglass: But those cans should be very low in sodium. I mean I buy a lot of canned beans and they have no sodium in them.
Cherylyn Lebon: Wait a minute Caryn, how about a decent grocery store that has frozen vegetables? How about that?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not arguing with you but that frozen chicken shouldn’t be plumped up with extra sodium.
Cherylyn Lebon: Again, we’re back to the sodium…
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s what we’re talking about today. I mean we can start talking about sugar or corn syrup…
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m just saying. But let’s go back to square one and start offering these families options. But these families don’t have options. You live in a world where you have the ability to be a vegan if you can afford it. What about these families? All they have is a bodega.
Caryn Hartglass: Well my diet is based on beans and rice which is like the cheapest food you can possibly eat and I encourage everybody to live on primarily these foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: With all due respect, these bodegas aren’t necessarily selling…
Caryn Hartglass: Yes but that’s not related to salt. That’s just another problem and we should be addressing those problems too, I agree. Everyone should have access to whole minimally-processed plant foods with no salt in it!
Cherylyn Lebon: Yes but Caryn, that’s great. Again, these are laudable goals to work towards. But my point is, if it’s not available to people who are living in the hood and have a bodega. We can talk about it ad nauseam but until the government comes up with solutions for people to live in neighborhoods and have incentives so that real grocery stores will go into neighborhoods and offer people alternatives, then you know we’re going to keep having hypertension and an obesity problem because this is what is being offered to Americans. That is my problem with this. That’s what the government should focus on.
Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you Cherylyn for your information today and for joining me today on It’s All About Food.
Cherylyn Lebon: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, take care.
Cherylyn Lebon: Thank you. Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: All right, that was Cherylyn Harley Lebon and you know about her thoughts regarding salt and food access. So we have just a few minutes left and again I wanted to remind you about the upcoming webinar on August 20th, all about water, clean water and water purification. It’s free and you can sign up at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com.
Just before we go, I wanted to share my restaurant experience this weekend. You know I was talking about going to eat out which I rarely do. Aside from the salt, and there was salt in some of the food I ate, I was down on the lower east side of New York and this neighborhood is really full of energy and so exciting. So my partner Gary is in a play in the Fringe Festival here in New York City and it’s called No One Asked Me. It’s all about the illegal immigration, it’s a fascinating story. So I went to a number of performances with friends and families, and got to try some of the restaurants in the area. Here’s what I was amazed at. We went to a pizza place called Paula Pizza. It was a beautiful open-area restaurant, the weather was great and the front of the restaurant was all open of outdoor seating. Their menu had regular pizzas, vegan pizzas with Daiya cheese and gluten-free pizzas. So I could get a vegan gluten-free pizza and they were beautiful. It was a lot of fun. Then I went to another place called the Falafel Shop and usually at the Falafel Shop there’s plenty of vegetarian food. But this one, they also offered vegan gluten-free pita bread and they had green juice. I was pretty much in heaven. Now those restaurants weren’t too bad for salt, it was another restaurant that I went to chosen by some other people. It was family dining and they were very nice. They did order some vegan salads and foods for the few vegan and vegetarian people. But there were two beautiful fresh salads; one of them was an endive salad and one was an arugula salad but it was just like they threw a handful of salt on top of both of these plates of salad. It was terrible, it was really terrible. As I was saying earlier, I woke up the next day with dark circles under my eyes. I went to do my yoga practice and I was so stiff I could barely touch my toes. I could not do a lot of the flexible exercises that I normally do and it was so profound to me. I can read study after study about how many people have been evaluated from the amount of salt that they’ve been eating and on how it impacts their own diet. But when you see it yourself, when you see what it does to you, it’s more powerful to me than anything else. The point I was trying to make and I want to bring it up again, that the salt we were talking about that we really want to reduce is the salt in processed, manufactured and prepared foods that a lot of people buy today. A lot of people don’t cook. Most of this salt does not have iodine in it so the whole iodine argument goes out the window. It’s just unnecessary salt.
Well I enjoyed that and I hope you did too. Before we go, I want to remind you of our REAL app. Another thing I wanted to tell you about is that I have a bunch of muffin recipes on the Responsible Eating and Living website. I love making muffins and I kind of have a loose principle that I don’t eat bread products unless I make them. Now unfortunately I think I gained quite a bit because I love too and I always love coming up with new muffin recipes. I have a new one, butter pecan muffins, and of course they’re vegan and gluten-free. Wow, they are so good. You can find a link to that recipe at the bottom of the Responsible Eating and Living website. Butter pecan muffins, don’t they sound good? They are good. There are lots of wonderful recipes that we have. You can always go to the real favorites. I have a category called real favorites in our recipe selection and these are the recipes that I’m making all the time. Well there you have it. I hope to bring back pattrice jones sometime soon, I wasn’t quite finished with that interview but in the meanwhile please pick up a copy of her book The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collision and read it, it’s so important. Other than that, have a very delicious week.
Transcribed by Stefan Pavlović, 9/6/2014