Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Become sodium savvy and reduce your heart risks: most sodium comes fromsources besides table salt, so read food labels carefully and exploremore healthful alternatives

food label misleads by touring_fishman
food label misleads, a photo by touring_fishman on Flickr.

Your doctor told you to cut back on your sodium, so you've put away the salt shaker and the salty snacks. Chances are you're still getting too much sodium each day.

Most of the sodium you consume comes not from the salt you sprinkle on your meals, but from the food itself. While some foods, like potato chips and pretzels, are obvious sodium sources, others may not taste salty but are high in sodium.

"Even milk and cheese are things that most people don't think have sodium in them," says Laura Jeffers, RD, LD, with Cleveland Clinic's Department of Nutrition Therapy.

"So, you have to look at what you're eating and consider the total sodium load in your diet." To reduce your sodium intake, carefully read the labels of the products you buy and choose lower-sodium options. And, as much as possible, opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains.


Too much sodium causes fluid retention and contributes to high blood pressure. The American Heart Association and other experts recommend limiting dietary sodium consumption to 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon of table salt) a day for healthy younger adults and 1,500 mg a day for people age 51 or older, African-Americans, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease. Unfortunately, many Americans consume five or more teaspoons of sodium daily.

Among the biggest sodium culprits are processed meats (e.g. hot dogs, bacon, sausage, deli meats) and "convenience" foods, such as prepared meals, canned soups, and rice, pasta, or potato mixes. If your food comes in a box, can, or plastic packaging, odds are it's high in sodium.

Other sodium sources are more surprising. Cookies and other goodies made with baking soda seem like sweet treats, but they can easily drive up your sodium load, as a teaspoon of baking soda contains more than 1,200 mg of sodium. Also, be careful with condiments. When you go to the ballgame this summer, a tablespoon of ketchup will add 167 mg of sodium (mustard, 56 mg) to the 513 mg of sodium in your average hot dog.

If you think you're making the right choice with canned beans, vegetables, or tuna, they typically are high in sodium. "Anything canned should be washed to get rid of the excess sodium," Jeffers advises.

Similarly, low-fat varieties may sound more healthful, but some products still contain ample sodium. For instance, a cup of fat-free milk has 127 mg of sodium, compared to 98 mg in whole milk.


Read the Nutrition Facts label of each product to see how much sodium it has per serving, and multiply the sodium amount by the number of servings per container. (Experts generally recommend avoiding products containing more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.) And, check the ingredients list for hidden sodium sources, such as baking soda/powder, monosodium glutamate, and compounds containing the word sodium. "Look at the foods you normally consume, and then go to the store and find an alternative, or choose the low-sodium version of your product," Jeffers says. "That's a good place to start."

Be careful when you read sodium-related terms on the product labeling (see "Sodium Semantics"). For instance, although a product marketed as "reduced sodium" has 25 percent less sodium than the regular version, that still amounts to 750 mg if the regular variety contains 1,000 mg of sodium.


Face it, if you're like most men, you enjoy salty foods, and you might think you'll lose out on flavor if you abandon the salt. Fact is, you can overcome your salt craving within a few weeks of replacing it with herbs, spices, and other flavor aids. If you opt for salt substitutes, tell your doctor. Many of these products contain potassium chloride and may raise your potassium to harmful levels if taken with certain blood pressure medications.

"There are so many seasonings and flavor enhancers that don't have sodium. It's just about getting that idea out of your head that you need salt and changing the way you think about what you eat," Jeffers says.

"As with anything, take baby steps. If you want to succeed, give yourself time to make the transition," she adds. "Serving size could be your first step. If you're completely over-eating sodium-rich foods, don't just switch to low-sodium foods, but also eat less so you get less sodium."



Here's a look at what the sodium-related terms on food packaging mean:

Sodium/salt-free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving

Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less per serving

Low sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less per serving

Reduced sodium: Product has at least 25 percent less sodium than regular version

Light: Product has at least 50 percent less sodium than regular version


Food group Instead of ... Try eating ...

Meat/protein Bacon, hot dogs, Lean fresh or frozen
sausage, deli meats, unsalted beef,
canned meats, all poultry, pork, veal,
processed meats fish, and lamb
except low-sodium

Starches Rice/pasta/potato Whole-grain breads
mixes, potato chips, and pasta, brown
pretzels, popcorn, rice, fresh potatoes,
seasoned bread unsalted crackers,
crumbs, tortilla chips, pretzels, and
chips, corn chips, popcorn

Dairy Regular cheese Low-sodium cheese

Fruits and Canned vegetables, Fresh, frozen, or
vegetables vegetable juices, canned fruits; fresh
pork and beans, or frozen vegetables
canned dried beans (without sauce);
(e.g. kidney, pinto unsalted canned
or chickpeas), vegetables

Condiments/ Pickles, olives, Lettuce, onions,
flavor aids salt, garlic or onion tomatoes, garlic or
salts, ketchup, onion powders,
mustard, soy/teriyaki vinegar, lemon juice,
sauces, relish, steak salt substitutes
or barbecue sauce (with doctor's

Source: Laura Jeffers, RD, LD, Cleveland Clinic Department of
Nutrition Therapy
Source Citation
"Become sodium savvy and reduce your heart risks: most sodium comes from sources besides table salt, so read food labels carefully and explore more healthful alternatives." Men's Health Advisor 14.5 (2012): 6+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 8 May 2012.
Document URL

Gale Document Number: GALE|A288430316

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