Monday, October 01, 2012

How To Avoid Consuming Too Much Sodium - It's Not Just Coming Out Of Your Salt Shaker! And, Do Raw Foodists Get Enough?

Are you eating too much salt?

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What's All The Fuss?
Sodium consumption is often in the headlines and with good reason. Most people eat way too much of it which could lead to high blood pressure. According to the Mayo clinic, high blood pressure can cause many serious complications such as:

* Damage to the arteries such as hardening of the arteries and even aneurysms.
* Damage to the heart such as coronary artery disease, an enlarged left ventricle and eventually heart failure.
* Damage to the brain which could lead to strokes, dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment.
* Damage to the kidneys which can cause kidney failure or an aneurysm in the kidney artery.
The Latest Alarming Data
Sodium was in the news again a few weeks ago when researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that children were consuming as much sodium as adults and that the ones consuming the highest amounts had two or three times the risk of having high blood pressure. Some scientists say that having hypertension as a child increases the risk of having it in adulthood. But it should be no surprise that children's health issues, like obesity and high blood pressure, are mimicking those of their parents as they are sharing the same diet and often their inactive life style.

How Much Do You Need?
Before we discuss how to limit sodium, it's important to know that sodium plays a key role in regulating body fluid, blood pressure, blood volume and acid-base balance. It is important for muscle contraction and nerve conduction. If you didn't get enough sodium, you might experience low blood pressure, muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea. So getting too little sodium could be a problem too!

Not all diets are high in sodium. Raw food diets that rely mainly on unprocessed foods such as raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds can actually be low in sodium. When I was writing my dissertation on "The Nutritional Adequacy of a Raw Food Vegan Diet", I noted that raw foodists were actually at risk for low sodium consumption unless they included table salt or soy sauce in their diet. Even raw beets, one of the vegetables highest in sodium, only has 106 mg per cup. 

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level and suggests an upper limit of 2300 mg or about 1 teaspoon of salt per day. (The average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3,436 mg per day). They also recommend the consumption of potassium-rich foods which counteract some of sodium's effect on blood pressure levels. 

The IOM also recommends that some people should limit their consumption to no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day and make sure they consume at least 4700 mg of potassium per day by eating potassium rich food. These people include:

* Those over 51 years of age.
* African Americans
* Those with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

Where Sodium Lurks
If you are eating out often, I can pretty much guarantee you are getting too much sodium. When Doug and I eat out, we immediately gain a pound or two just from the excess water we retain from consuming too much sodium. Even the best chefs are heavy handed when it comes to salting their dishes.
Do you ever watch the Biggest Loser? Their contestants loose tons of weight in their first week and although the trainers would like to attribute most of it to their new low calorie diets and workout routines, much of that weight loss is from the amount of water they are no longer retaining because they are eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.

Here's an example of the high amounts of sodium found in restaurant food:

* Olive Garden's Lasagna Classico - dinner portion contains 2830 mg 
* McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese - 1360 mg 
* KFC Original Chicken Breast - 1080 mg per piece
* Pizza Hut, 2 slices 12" Cheese only pizza - 1060 mg
* PF Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps - 2300 mg
* Chilies Texas "Cheese Fries with Chili & Ranch - 6080 mg
* Taco Bell Black Bean Burrito - 1100 mg

Meals prepared at home can also be an issue. Here are some common foods or food ingredients that are high in sodium:

Salt contains 2325 mg sodium per teaspoon.

Asian cooking can be very high in sodium since it uses soy and fish sauces that are packed with it. Try selecting the reduced sodium versions of these sauces when cooking.

Tamari soy sauce contains 1006 mg of sodium per tablespoon - equivalent to a bit less than a teaspoon of salt.
Fish sauce contains 1390 mg of sodium per tablespoon.

Many bouillon cubes are very high in sodium. Note the serving size when checking the label. One large Rapunzel vegan bouillon cube is actually considered 2 servings.

This large bouillon cube contains 2020 mg of sodium.

Breads and baked goods can be very high in sodium because they contain baking powder and/or baking soda. It's hard to notice how high it is since the serving size on their label is only 1/8th of a teaspoon!

Baking powder contains 440 mg of sodium per teaspoon.
Baking soda contains 1280 mg per teaspoon.

Salad dressings can contain lots of salt, cheese, even anchovies - all of which contribute to the sodium content. 

Newman's own family recipe Italian dressing contains 360 mg of sodium per 2 tablespoons.

Bacon, hot dogs, salami and other cured meats are extremely high in sodium as well as other unhealthy ingredients. 

A Hebrew national beef frank contains 460 mg of sodium.
Their jumbo beef frank contains 810 mg.

But meat substitutes can also be very high in sodium. 

Field roast sausages contain up to 600 mg of sodium each.
A 4 oz serving of their Celebration roast contains 710 mg.

Salmon and anchovies are both excellent sources of omega-3 but unfortunately they can be very high in sodium. Salmon is far healthier baked than smoked.

2 ounces of chinook, smoked, contains 1133 mg of sodium.
An ounce of anchovies contains 1036 mg.

Who didn't make their way through college without eating ramen noodles? Besides sodium, they contain monosodium glutamate. 

One cup of noodles contains 1060 mg of sodium.
1 block of Maruchan ramen noodles contains up to 1900 mg.

The amount of sodium in cheese varies with the type, but cottage cheese, parmesan, feta and asiago rank among the highest. For a comprehensive list of the sodium content in popular cheeses, check out fatsecret

Although lowfat cottage cheese is the "go to" meal for dieters, it contains 450 mg of sodium in just 1/2 cup.

Pickles are very low in calories but contain a lot of sodium. Look for ones with reduced sodium. Olives and other pickled vegetables are also high in sodium.

3 ounces of Dill Spears contains 630 mg of sodium.
Just 3 to 5 Kalamata olives contains 230 mg.

Tips on Lowering your Sodium Intake
There are many wonderful foods out there that won't tip the scales on sodium content. Here are a few tips that can help.

* Eat mostly unprocessed foods - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

* When you do eat food in a jar or out of a box, always READ THE LABEL. Select the low sodium version if it's available. 

* When reading the label, pay attention to PORTION SIZE. I was pretty surprised to find out that one bouillon cube was actually two servings and contained twice the sodium than I thought it did!

* Limit how much salt or soy sauce you use during cooking. If you use bouillon cubes for your soup base, don't use any additional salt.

* Spice it up! The more spices you use, the less salt you need. When I make chili, I never add salt and no one even notices!

* Be careful when eating out. Tell the waiter that you prefer less salt in your dish. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate your dietary needs. 

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