Once again, I’m tackling my ever-full inbox…This time the questions are all about that troublemaker sodium (which is not the same as salt) and how to break up with sodium without missing the salt.
Salt is a mineral made up of sodium and chloride, but it’s the sodium in salt that is bad for your health. And we need sodium to survive.
Although health professionals will talk to you about “not using too much salt,” it’s the sodium that is listed on food labels that we should be keeping track of.
It’s a fact that your bodies depend on sodium to:
- Help your muscles contract
- Help your nervous system transmit information to your body’s control center
- And to balance your body fluids, along with other electrolytes such as potassium.
However, too much sodium can interfere with organ function and severely damage your brain, kidneys, arteries, and heart.
The overuse of salt can cause chemical imbalances that can lead to death.
➡ The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (for ages 4 and up) and would really like to move us toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.
➡ Because the average American eats so much excess sodium, even cutting out 1,000 milligrams a day can significantly improve blood pressure and heart health.
And remember, more than 70% of the sodium Americans eat comes from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods — not the salt shaker.
On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day — much more than the American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend. Most of us are likely underestimating how much sodium we eat if we can estimate it at all.
Here’s the general quick fix:
How To Break Up With Sodium Without Missing The Salt
➡ Choose fresh instead of processed foods when you can
➡ Read the Nutrition Facts label (always!) to check the amount of sodium.
- As a general guide: 5% DV (**daily value) or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.
The **Daily Values are reference amounts of nutrients to consume or not to exceed each day for adults and children 4 years of age and older.
➡ Pay attention to the number of servings in the package. The nutrition information listed on the Nutrition Facts label is usually based on one serving of the food, not necessarily the entire package.
➡ Assess the serving size and the number of servings you eat or drink to determine how much sodium you’re consuming.
➡ Buy only foods labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.”
➡ Buy plenty of vegetables and fruits.
➡ Buy any fresh fruits, like apples, oranges, or bananas
➡ Buy any fresh vegetables, like spinach, carrots, or broccoli
➡ Choose only frozen vegetables without added butter or sauce
➡ Choose canned vegetables that are low in sodium or have no salt added (rinse all canned vegetables to remove some of the sodium)
➡ Try low-sodium vegetable juice
➡ Try frozen, canned, or dried fruit with no added sugars or sodium
What to avoid or limit:
- Think about salad bars, for instance: You may think the salad bar is a better choice than a sandwich for lunch…however, consider your toppings:
➡ Processed artichoke hearts, chickpeas, and processed olives are just a few of the high sodium threats hiding on those “healthy” salad bar.
➡ Avoid anything that comes out of a can.
➡ Avoid cured meats
Then there’s the popular Caesar Salad
Some foods that we think are healthy can be sneaky little diet wreckers. Take Caesar salad, for example.
➡ You might think that because it’s a salad, it’s fine. But just a small bowl has 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing…which of course, is high in sodium too.
Food Fix: Use only 1 tablespoon of dressing and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of tangy Parmesan cheese.
That berry blend at the smoothie shop can have a whopping 80 grams of sugar, 350 calories or more, little protein, and often no fresh fruit.
➡ Fruit concentrates, with sodium added to preserve them, are often used instead of fresh fruit. And sorbet, ice cream, and sweeteners can make these no better than a milkshake.
Food Fix: Get the small cup!
➡ Ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk, or no sodium added protein powder for good nutrition.
Many of these are simply enhanced candy bars with more calories (up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied. A few bites, and it’s gone.
➡ Choose bars that have 200 calories or less, some fiber, and at least 5 grams of protein, which helps provide energy when the sugar rush fades. And, of course…look for sodium content.
Turkey Hot Dogs
The nutritional content of turkey hot dogs varies from brand to brand. It may say “less fat” or “low sodium” on the front label, but when you check the fine print on the back, you find there’s still too much of each per serving.
➡ Again, compare nutrition labels for the lowest sodium content. There are some really good choices available these days.
When you see “multigrain” or “seven grain” on bread, pasta, or waffles, flip the package over and check the nutrition label.
➡ Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains, such as white flour, which has been stripped of fiber and many nutrients, and several brands list sodium (salt) as an ingredient!) Who needs salt on their bread?
Food Fix: Look for “100% whole grain” (oats, wheat) as the first ingredient. But check those labels!
➡ The word “snack” can be a little misleading on microwave popcorn. One popular brand packs 9 grams of fat into each “snack size” bag.
And, in case you missed it, read our article on microwave and “movie” popcorn here…it’s an eye-opener.
Food Fix: Compare nutrition labels, and get a lower-fat popcorn that has no trans fat at all. Especially watch for the sodium content.
➡ Sprinkle plain popcorn with Parmesan cheese or low-salt spice blends for added flavor without a lot of fat. There are now several brands of sodium free salt, (Morton’s is good) and you cannot tell the difference.
Salt substitutes are not a healthful option for everyone.
➡ Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride in place of sodium chloride. Potassium consumed in excess may be harmful to some people.
- For example, many people with kidney problems are unable to rid their bodies of excessive potassium, which could result in a deadly situation.
➡ If you have kidney problems or are on medication for your heart, kidneys or liver, it is best to check with your physician before using salt substitutes in place of sodium.
Otherwise, a salt substitute containing potassium chloride is an acceptable alternative in moderation, but only if you don’t have kidney problems and have checked with your physician to be sure it will not interact with any of your medications.
Ideally, the best way to go is completely “Salt-Free.”
➡ Instead of mimicking the taste of sodium with salt substitutes, start experimenting with other more flavorful herbs and spices to add some “oomph” to your meals.
➡ Try fresh garlic or garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, flavored vinegar, salt-free herb blends, basil, oregano, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, fresh ground pepper, tarragon, and many others to unleash the powerful flavors these salt-free herbs and spices have to offer.
Click the link below to get some ideas:
Remember that a 2300 mg sodium restriction means the total sodium in your day – this includes the salt in the foods that you eat, not just the seasoning that you add.
➡ Be cautious of nutrition labels and keep foods under 140 mg or less which is considered a “low sodium food.”
The preference for salt is learned, meaning you can unlearn your craving. By reducing your craving for salt you can learn to appreciate new flavors and flavor combinations.
➡ Start by adding fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (dried beans, lentils, split peas) into your reduced-sodium diet.
➡ Make it a goal to incorporate these naturally low-sodium foods over most convenience foods on a daily basis.
➡ Gradually experiment with salt-free herbs and spices into your favorite recipes. Soon you won’t even miss the taste for salt.
➡ Choose fresh or frozen seafood, poultry, and meats instead of the processed options…they have so much sodium in them it makes my head hurt just to look at them!
➡ Check the labels on any frozen meat, poultry, and seafood look for 5% DV (daily value) or less.
➡ Buy Chicken or turkey breast without skin or marinade
➡ Lean cuts of beef or pork
➡ Unsalted nuts and seeds
➡ Dried beans and peas – like kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas, and lentils
➡ Canned beans labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium” (but rinse canned beans anyway to remove some of the sodium)
Check out these food substitutes that are excellent sources of protein, without the salt or fat.
And then there’s Iceberg Lettuce…
➡ This popular lettuce is big on crunch but a big “zero” when it comes to vitamins and flavor. Yet, its boring taste leads many people to overdo it on the dressing and toppings which are high in sodium.
Add spinach or arugula to the mix.
Crumble 2 tablespoons (100 calories) of blue cheese or feta on top.
Then splash the salad with a little olive oil and vinegar to spread flavor without a lot of calories.
Insufficient sodium intake is not a public health problem in the United States.
The guideline to reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg/day doesn’t apply to people who lose big amounts of sodium in sweat, like competitive athletes, and workers exposed to major heat stress, such as foundry workers and firefighters, or to those directed otherwise by their healthcare provider.
If you have medical conditions or other special dietary needs or restrictions, you should follow the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
**And make sure to follow our 2018 Best Diets For Diabetics And Heart Patients Reviews Here are the links to the first set-The Mediterranean Diet Review.