Monday, March 26, 2012

Sodium Lurking in Your Diet

     If you’ve been good about avoiding the salt shaker, three cheers for you. Unfortunately, sodium still lurks in your diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 80% of salt is already in the food you buy, like processed and restaurant foods! Too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, or stroke—and Americans eat far over the recommended daily allowance of 1,500 milligrams per day.

Here are some common sodium culprits and their range of sodium per serving:

  • Canned soup – 700-1,260 mg (46.67-84%)* 
  • Frozen cheese pizza – 450-1,200 mg (30-80%)* 
  • Salted pretzels – 290-560 mg (19.33-37.33%)* 
  • Salad dressing – 110-505 mg (7.33-33.67%)* 
* percent of your daily allowance

     Why is there so much sodium in our prepackaged foods? Salt (or sodium chloride) helps prevent foods from spoiling. It also brings out the flavors in food—making cakes and cookies sweeter. And the diet soda you love? Well, salt helps mask its metallic or chemical aftertastes.

     So what’s a processed food-lover supposed to do? Well, eat more fruits and vegetables (that message never gets old) and read the “nutritional facts” panel on the foods you buy. Registered dietitian Brandy Baxter recommends looking for foods with less than 500 mg per serving. Here are some more tips from Brandy:
  • Eat foods labeled “low sodium or “no salt added” 
  • Find nutrition information of major fast food chain menu items online (before you pull up to the drive-thru) 
  • When dining out, avoid sauces—they’re loaded with salt. 
  • Skip the soy sauce when eating Asian foods. 
  • At a restaurant, don’t eat the skin of your baked potato. It’s often treated with salt. 
     Sometimes it feels like you just can’t win. You choose a can of soup over a cheeseburger and you’re still not doing right by your diet. It makes you want to eat a dozen cocktail weenies. But the take-away here is to read food labels and pick fresh over processed foods.

By Anne Gill

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