Wow. Sodium really sucks

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Not because they’re generally full of ingredients I can’t pronounce, but because it always seemed that whenever I ate them, I gained weight. I enjoy a Lean Cuisine panini every now and again and assumed the jump in weight I enjoyed afterward was carb related. I think I was wrong.

Experts are always advising us to avoid frozen meals because they are “high in sodium”. But what constitutes “high”? How much is enough and how much is too much? I realized I didn’t have a clue, so I looked it up.

For purposes of perspective, let’s first look at these facts about sodium:

Amount your body actually needs on a daily basis: 500 mg

Maximum amount you should take in on a daily basis: 2300 mg

Maximum for people who are black, over 50, or suffering from high blood pressure: 1500 mg

Amount of sodium in one TEASPOON of table salt: 2300 mg

What I ate for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack on the day I looked this up:

1 serving of oatmeal
2 cups raw cauliflower, 1/2 cup raw broccoli, ¼ cup sliced green olives, 1 ounce lean ham which I mixed with a dressing made with fat-free sour cream and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 Lite Flat Out whole grain wrap
2 ounces Hillshire Select turkey breast
1 slice Kraft 2% Swiss Cheese
1 cup of strawberries

Total sodium for above (according to Sparkpeople)? 3400 mg.

That’s off-the-hook insane. I hadn’t even eaten dinner yet and I was well over the “legal limit” for sodium consumption. And I thought I was eating so well. Sigh.

Salt is used as a preservative, which is why the sodium content of most processed foods is so high. Frozen meals, lunch meats, cheeses and breads are crazy high. And, please – go grab a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and take a look at that. Ouch!

Comparing the sodium content of 3 ounces of white meat turkey with 3 ounces of lunch meat turkey freaked me out a little bit:

Turkey you roast yourself: 55 mg of sodium. That turkey from the deli? About 900 mg.

So now you may say, “But Mrs. Jelly Belly, I like salt - and I am a rebel, to boot. Why should I care about sodium content?” Because, dear person, too much sodium – especially in people who might be sodium sensitive, leads to high blood pressure, which leads to other ugly things like stroke, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. And if you don’t care about that, how about water retention? Now THAT’S ugly.

Your body does require a certain amount of sodium to function. But if you get too much and your kidneys can’t eliminate enough of the excess, it starts to accumulate in your blood. The excess sodium attracts and holds water, increasing your blood volume. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. And there you have it – high blood pressure.

I am not going to obsess over this sodium thing. I am not. What I will do, however, is pay more attention to labels and make some small changes:

- Roast a turkey on Sunday and use the leftovers for sandwiches and salads during the week. Cheaper than lunch meat and it tastes better, too.

- Avoid processed foods – and fast foods. (Yikes! You should look that one up, too.)

- Use herbs and spices for flavoring food, rather than salt-based seasonings.

- Opening a can of beans? Dump them in a colander and give them a good rinse before using them. You eliminate a lot of the sodium that way.

- Buy low-sodium canned goods whenever possible.

For your sodium viewing pleasure, you can look up the sodium content of a lot of foods here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Ryan Ashley Scott@Optimistic Cynicism said...

This is very interesting, and a little scary (especially the table salt thing)! Thanks for all the research and information.

Visiting from SITS.

Tiffany said...

I'd hate to think about the sodium content of the foods we eat. Well, okay, I just won't think about it ;-) It's too scary!

BoufMom9 said...

Good for you changing your diet. My family make the switch to a totally natural diet about 7 months ago and we have never been healthier :)

Popped over from SITS.

midlife mommy said...

You were just bragging about that healthy eating for the day, right? Ack. You would NOT want to live in my body. Even I think that Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup is salty, and that saying something.

Holloway Family said...

I very RARELY use salt. I just don't think I need it most of the time. My father-in-law used it on EVERYTHING and has passed it on down to my youngest daughter, and he isn't even alive!!!

Visiting from SITS

Marshmallow Circus said...

We only use sea salt as the harvesting process adds no un needed ingredients. Thanks for the great info on how much we actually need.

Small House said...

After reading your post, I had to laugh because of my post today. AUGH!! Thanks for all the information. Have a good day.

Nana said...

Well that was scary. I'm not going to think about it though. Nope. Not gonna.

Can't stop thinking about it.

AndreaLeigh said...

I'm just stopping by from sits to say hello. thanks for sharing. i did not know those numbers, so I must be taking in so much salt! i need to watch that. i've been noticing some water retention and swelling lately... and dead giveaway I'm taking in too much, i think.

Anonymous said...

Zooming in from SITS to say hi. I agree with you. I can always tell when I've had too much sodium, my rings get tight and I feel bloated. I have to drink tons of water to flush it all out the next day!