Health Matters The latest news on the health and wellness issues that matter most • September 2011
Is a Pinch of Salt TooMuch? By Candace Rotolo Let’s face it–most of us have a love affairwith salt.Often with- out realizing it, the average American woman consumes seven grams of sodium a day. That’s one-and-a-half teaspoons daily–well above the recommended dose of 2.3 grams (or 2,300 mg) each day. And men use even more–an average of 10 grams of sodium daily. Why is our intake of sodium so high? According to Margie Kaparos, R.D., a clinical dietician at NCH’s von Arx Diabetes and Nutrition Center, you don’t have to tip the salt shaker at every meal to be getting too much. Salt is often where we con- sumers least expect it: in prepackaged convenience foods, such as ready-made dinners or boxed macaroni and cheese, in deli meats, seasoning packets, canned vegetables and tomato juice –just to name a few. “If we could just cut back on processed foods, we’d do so much better for our health,” notes Kaparos, who frequently teaches nutrition courses for patients and community members alike.“We don’t need all those chemicals.” But in our hustle and bustle lifestyle, many of us rely on those ready-made meals, eat out at restaurants or drive through the fast food line. Kaparos says dining out is often a major cul- prit in high sodium levels, since restaurants use salt to make food taste better. Sodium isn’t all bad, Kaparos explains. It’s needed to main- tain your body’s
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Naples resident Bob Sabo knows the dangers
of salt all too well. A self-admitted salt-a-holic, Sabo used it on ev- erything.“I used to pour it on,” he says.“Everything had to have salt on it.”After being hospitalized for congestive heart disease, his doc- tor urged him to give up his two-pack-a-day cigarette habit (which he did) and lower his salt intake (which he didn’t). Ten years later, Sabo, who also has diabetes, was again hospitalized for heart prob- lems. This time, he knew he had to kick his salt habit for good. “I had to learn to live without the taste of salt, and boy it was hard!” Difficult, maybe, but Sabo says he’s never felt better. His blood pressure is reduced, his diabetes is under control and his cardiolo- gists give him high marks. Dietician Kaparos knows that changing your diet and lifestyle takes some getting used to. For patients who need to cut back on their sodium intake, she recommends reading labels as you grocery shop. Look for items with a salt content below 400 mg (or 0.4 g). “It takes longer to shop, but it’s worth it,” she insists. Secondly, experiment cooking with herbs (fresh or dried), us- ing no-salt seasonings/powders or even lemon juice to flavor foods. There are also lite salts that are available in most grocery stores. Finally, cook as many meals as possible at home. This will put you in control of the amount of salt used, says Kaparos, who adds that rinsing canned vegetables in running water before cooking will greatly reduce the salt content. “There’s no bad side effect from eating healthfully,” notes Kaparos. So, is a pinch of salt too much? Not if you know when to put down the shaker.
• Cheese spread, processed cheese • Deli meats (opt for low sodium versions) • TV or frozen dinners • Pre-packaged macaroni & cheese or rice dishes • Sausage • Anything pickled • Seasoning mixes (for tacos, chili, etc.) • Tomato juice back or eliminating these high salt items: Dietician Margie Kaparos suggests cutting
electrolyte and fluid balance, and it’s an im- portant nutrient. But too much of a good thing can be bad for your health. As your body tries to process all that sodium, it puts a stress on the kidneys as well as forces the body to retain fluid, requiring the heart to pump harder. The result? High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, the leading cause of heart
attacks. Hypertension also contributes to cardiovascular dis- ease and strokes. And if you have diabetes, high blood pressure can also contribute to kidney problems. Individuals with these conditions need to limit their intake even further and consume 1,500 mg or less of sodium each day.
Healthy Guidelines: No more than 2,300 mg (2.3 g) daily! The following groups should limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg daily: • People age 51 and older • African Americans • People with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease
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