Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

salt shaker
I've never worried about my sodium intake.  Since I have low blood pressure, it has never been an issue.  It was never even on my radar until I took a nutrition class earlier this year and had to monitor my food intake.  I learned that healthcare professionals advise individuals to limit sodium intake to more than 2,300 milligrams per day.   After monitoring my meals for a few days, I saw that my sodium intake was usually close to the recommended limit and even occasionally exceeded it.  Not a problem for me but I realized how difficult it can be for individuals who do need to watch their sodium consumption.

One problem with sodium is that it is often hidden in processed foods.  Even people who never touch the salt shaker need to worry about consuming too much sodium.  According to the New York Times, 80 percent of the salt found in our diet comes from foods that are processed or eaten in restaurants.  In addition, a new study reported in Huffington Post found that kids are getting far too much sodium in their diets.  While most prepackaged baby foods that were tested were found to be acceptable, some prepackaged toddler foods contained an enormous amount of salt.  Some tested foods had over half the daily allowance in a single serving and over 70 percent contained more than the recommended serving amount.  Overall, the study found that 70 percent of the foods consumed by children have too much salt.

Why is salt bad?  High sodium intake can cause hypertension, which is linked to obesity, heart disease, and stroke.  The Mayo Clinic says that high blood pressure can cause damage to the heart, the arteries, the kidneys, and even the brain.  

Want to watch your sodium intake?  Don't just worry about table salt.  The New York Times article points out it's not the only source of sodium.  We get sodium in our diets through additives like monosodium-glutamate (often listed as "MSG," "natural flavoring," and other misleading names on packages),  baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, and anything with "sodium" in its name.  Meat can be a problem as well because the meat industry often plumps up meat by injecting it with salt water.

The bottom line?  The best way to avoid excessive sodium is to avoid prepackaged foods and to ask questions when dining out.  Even if you ask at a restaurant, however, the server may not know.  The New York Times article mentioned that a fast-food cheeseburger can have as much as 1,690 milligrams of sodium!

1 comment:

EcoGrrl said...

My mom was obsessive about this when I was growing up which passed on to me as well - looking at the mg on packaged foods, it's easy to see where the "flavor" comes from, especially canned soups - it's astonishing!!! Keeps me remembering to cook, for sure :)