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to build up in your blood. Because sodium
attracts and holds water, your blood volume
increases, which makes your heart work
harder and increases pressure in your arteries.
Such diseases as congestive heart failure,
cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can make
it hard for your kidneys to keep sodium levels
Some people’s bodies are more sensitive to
the effects of sodium than are others. If you’re
sodium sensitive, you retain sodium more
easily, leading to fluid retention and increased
blood pressure. If this becomes chronic, it can
lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease
and congestive heart failure.
Sodium: How much
do you need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300
mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or
older, or if you are black, or if you have high
blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney
Keep in mind that these are upper limits, and
less is usually best, especially if you’re sensitive
to the effects of sodium. If you aren’t sure how
much sodium your diet should include, talk to
your doctor or dietitian.
Sodium: What are the major
dietary sources?
The average American gets about 3,400
mg of sodium a day — much more than
recommended. Here are the main sources of
sodium in a typical diet:
Processed and prepared foods.
The vast
majority of sodium in the typical American
diet comes from foods that are processed and
prepared. These foods are typically high in salt
and additives that contain sodium. Processed
foods include bread, prepared dinners like
pasta, meat and egg dishes, pizza, cold cuts and
bacon, cheese, soups, and fast foods.
Natural sources.
Some foods naturally
contain sodium. These include all vegetables
and dairy products, meat, and shellfish. While
they don’t have an abundance of sodium,
eating these foods does add to your overall
body sodium content. For example, 1 cup (237
milliliters) of low-fat milk has about 100 mg of
In the kitchen and at the table.
recipes call for salt, and many people also
salt their food at the table. Condiments also
may contain sodium. One tablespoon (15
milliliters) of soy sauce, for example, has about
1,000 mg of sodium.
Tips for cutting
back on sodium
Virtually all Americans can benefit from
reducing the sodium in their diet. Here are
more ways you can cut back on sodium:
Eat more fresh foods.
Most fresh fruits
and vegetables are naturally low in sodium.
Also, fresh meat is lower in sodium than are
luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and
ham. Buy fresh or frozen poultry or meat that
hasn’t been injected with a sodium-containing
solution. Look on the label or ask your butcher.
Opt for low-sodium products.
If you
do buy processed foods, choose those that are
labeled “low sodium.” Better yet, buy plain
whole-grain rice and pasta instead of ones that
have added seasonings.
Remove salt from recipes whenever
You can leave out the salt in many
recipes, including casseroles, soups, stews and
other main dishes that you cook. Look for
cookbooks that focus on lowering risks of high
blood pressure and heart disease.
Limit use of sodium-laden
Soy sauce, salad dressings,
sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all
contain sodium.
Use herbs, spices and other flavorings
to season foods.
Use fresh or dried herbs,
spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices
to jazz up your meals. Sea salt, however, isn’t a
good substitute. It has about the same amount
of sodium as table salt.
Use salt substitutes wisely.
Some salt
substitutes or light salts contain a mixture of
table salt and other compounds. To achieve
that familiar salty taste, you may use too much
of the substitute — and get too much sodium.
Also, many salt substitutes contain potassium
chloride. Although potassium can lessen some
of the problems from excess sodium, too
much potassium can be harmful especially if
you have kidney problems or if you’re taking
medications for congestive heart failure or
high blood pressure that cause potassium
Sodium: Be a savvy shopper
Taste alone may not tell you which foods are
high in sodium. For example, you may not
think a bagel tastes salty, but a typical 4-inch
(10-centimeter) oat-bran bagel has about 600
mg of sodium, and even a slice of whole-wheat
bread contains about 100 mg of sodium.
So how can you tell which foods are high in
sodium? Read food labels. The Nutrition Facts
label found on most packaged and processed
foods lists the amount of sodium in each
serving. It also lists whether the ingredients
include salt or sodium-containing compounds,
such as:
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
• Baking soda (also called sodium
• Baking powder
• Disodium phosphate
• Sodium alginate
• Sodium citrate
• Sodium nitrite
Try to avoid products with more than 200 mg
of sodium per serving. And be sure you know
how many servings are in a package — that
information is also on the Nutrition Facts
Sodium: More tips
to cut back
The supermarket is full of foods labeled
“reduced sodium” or “light in sodium.”
But don’t assume that means they’re low in
sodium. For example, a can of chicken noodle
soup that claims to have 25 percent less
sodium still has a whopping 524 mg in 1 cup.
It’s only lower in salt compared with regular
chicken noodle soup that has more than 790
mg of sodium in a cup.
Here’s a rundown on common sodium claims
and what they really mean:
Sodium-free or salt-free. Each serving in this
product contains less than 5 mg of sodium.
Very low sodium. Each serving contains 35 mg
of sodium or less.
Low sodium.
Each serving contains 140 mg
of sodium or less.
Reduced or less sodium. The product contains
at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular
Lite or light in sodium.
The sodium
content has been reduced by at least 50 percent
from the regular version.
Unsalted or no salt added.
No salt
is added during processing of a food that
normally contains salt. However, some foods
with these labels may still be high in sodium
because some of the ingredients may be high
in sodium.
Go low and take it slow
Your taste for salt is acquired, so you can
learn to enjoy less. Decrease your use of salt
gradually and your taste buds will adjust.
After a few weeks of cutting back on salt, you
probably won’t miss it, and some foods may
even taste too salty. Start by using no more
than 1/4 teaspoon of salt daily — at the table
and in cooking. Then throw away the salt
shaker. As you use less salt, your preference for
it diminishes, allowing you to enjoy the taste of
the food itself, with heart-healthy benefits.
Oct/Nov 2013