February is “American Heart Month” and I am teaming up with the American Heart Association to help us stay heart healthy and strong. Each week we will share a different tip. I think we can make it fun, educational and hopefully we will move into March smarter and healthier. I hope you will take on the Challenge with me.
This week it’s all about “Changing Your Salty Ways.” I have to admit, I love salt. I salt everything; eggs, salads, dressing, soups and stews, I sometimes even put salt in my beer. So when I read that the American Heart Association recommends Americans should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day instead of our usual 3,400mg, I thought, “That’s not a big deal, I mean, how much is a milligram?” Get ready:
Adult recommended allowance per day – 1,500mg of sodium=3/4 tsp of salt
98 % of Americans consume double that amount -3,400 mg =1 1/2 tsp salt
Children recommended allowance per day
1-3 years should have only 1,000mg =1/2 tsp.
4-8 years should have only 1,200mg=1/2tsp. and a pinch
Can you believe it?! That seems like nothing to me! My first thought was, “I’m never going to be able to cut my sodium down to ½ tsp. a day.” And my second thought was, “Why should I?”
Okay, since I like to understand things from the ground up I ask, “What is excess sodium for us?” I mean, I know it makes me puffy, but what exactly is it doing to my heart?
Answer: Sodium can increase our blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, placing an added burden on the heart. If we already have high blood pressure it can make it worse.
Okay, my next question: What is high blood pressure? I know it’s weird I don’t know this, but I went to a hippy school and I am really good at finger knitting. (All you smarties out there, just skip this part.)
Answer: High blood pressure is when the force of our blood against our arterial walls is too high. Resulting in these walls becoming overstretched and injured.
We may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure can permanently damage our hearts, brains, eyes and kidneys before we feel any symptoms. High blood pressure can often lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health consequences.
Okay, now we know why high blood pressure is bad and that an excess of salt can make it worse. Now what do we do?
Well, I am pretty sure I can cut down on my table salt, I mean who needs salt in their beer? But as the American Heart Association says, it’s not so much what we are putting on our foods, it’s what is in the food already. More than 75 percent of the sodium we consume is hidden in processed foods like tomato sauce, soups, condiments, canned foods and prepared mixes. So the AHA came up with “The Salty Six;” the top six foods that are sneaking sodium into our diets without our knowing in the form of processed or restaurant food (click image below for full size).
1. Breads and Rolls – One slice/piece can have as much as 230mg of sodium.
2. Cold cuts and cured meats – Two ounces of packaged turkey breast can contain up to 620 to 670 mg of sodium. That’s over 1/3 of the maximum recommended daily intake of sodium!
3. Pizza – One slice ( and really who ever eats one slice) can have as much as 760mg
4. Poultry – It depends on how it’s prepared but for example 3 ounces of chicken nuggets can have 600mg.
5. Soup – One cup of chicken noodle soup can have up to 940mg, and typically there is more than one cup in a can.
6. Sandwiches/burgers – You add two pieces of bread (up to 230mg each), cold cuts (up to 670mg), cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard – you get the idea, you are way above your 1,500mg allowance in just one sandwich!
Of course different brands and different restaurants contain differing amounts of sodium, so to help us out, the American Heart Association provides a “heart-check mark” that is on many brands and in some restaurants to help us find foods that are heart healthy.
So, this whole month I am going to start checking the sodium levels of the canned or prepackaged food that I buy and choose wisely, and watch for the words “soda” and “sodium” and the symbol “Na” on labels. These words disclose that sodium compounds are present. Hopefully after a month I will have formed a healthy habit leading to Changing My Salty Ways.
Let me know your tips for keeping your sodium low, and what brands you like.
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