The Nutritarian

Healthy Eating Insight

Health & Sodium Intake: How Much is too Much?

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 01•12

Do you ever feel that people are choosing to act old these days?  It almost seems like an acceptance of deterioration; defeat displayed by dropping older bodies off at the surgeon’s.  Why not practice health and being well?  Surely it couldn’t hurt.

Earlier this year The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released an article addressing the need to reduce sodium intake for everyone; noting to be especially mindful if you are 51 or older, black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.  The CDC article states that we could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs if everyone cut back to the 1,200-1,500 mg of sodium per day that health experts recommend.

Bypassing around a half a teaspoon of salt for $20 billion sounds worthwhile to me.  Recalling the health related agony that can be avoided with fewer medical encounters for ourselves and our loved ones may hit closer to home.

Or, maybe you have more encounters with the “lucky ones” regarding health and wellness.  You know, those with normal blood pressure levels and excess energy who practice preventative health care by exercising regularly and eating nutritiously.  Perhaps we shall refer to them as diligent instead.  These diligent beings will have different sodium intake requirements and can follow the advice of a coach or nutritionist.

The American Dietetics Association (ADA) and The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommend consuming no more than 1500–2300 mg of sodium or (3750–5750 mg of salt) per day for healthy, normally functioning individuals.  Hopefully we’re safe with these resources, although you never know what salt farmer is being paid off, so do your research, talk to your doctor, know your body, and keep track of your levels through regular blood testing.  You could also trust in your doctor.

Doctors and authors have been researching and writing for over ten years concluding that a movement, or Food Revolution, as John Robbins titled his book, is imperative.  The more I learn, the more evident the truth becomes: changing eating habits can save lives.

It is astonishing that something within our control (health) is such an outrageous monster in the grand scheme of societal issues.  I guess poor eating damage isn’t instantaneous enough for the general population to be concerned.  However, research on leading causes of death (heart disease), the prevalence of kidney stones, and ever rising obesity rates with 35% of children in Chicago weighing in as obese and 50% overweight, we have some frightening statistics that are hopefully disheartening enough to make at least some of us pay attention to the reality and severity of this problem.

It is common when dealing with change or new leaning for tasks to seem daunting, at first.  Rest assured though, discovering quality products that taste good can be easy and rewarding.  I promise!

Staying healthy by pursuing the best fresh local food is one of the best ways to know your food and stay healthy.  This means scouting the grocery stores and farmers markets and testing food providers.  Whether it’s the wait staff, chef, or manager at a restaurant or grocery store.  It’s kind of like life.  Know what you’re getting into and get what you want.

During my most recent culinary inquisition,  I created a recipe that requires no salt or oil and uses all fast fresh, local ingredients.  It takes 5 minutes to create, tastes amazing, and goes like this:

Fresh organic kale picked off the stem and tossed with a quick squeeze of fresh lemon

Next, simply crack a can of Carmelina Brands Garbanzo Beans, drain, and combine.  Walla!  A delicious dinner party delight.  Confirmed based on compliments and sound effects from community garden potluck parties and cooking show tryouts.

One thing to be noted when following my recipes;  I recommend brands for a reason. In this recipe the Carmelina Brands canned beans have been chosen for several reasons, number one I don’t have enough time to make beans myself and no one else I know of makes them taste as good with such low sodium: 90mg! Food that tastes great raw requires less cooking and retains the most nutrients. So, simple cooking (I am referring to it as combining) is key.  Knowing the company and what they stand for is also important.  The Carmeilna brand is a preservative free, high-quality, all-natural organic food that has no added sodium, that’s about as safe as you’re going to get.

While this may sound rare and complicated, I do believe that bigger corporations are realizing that caring can be a win win relationship.  Look at Whole Foods, while I wouldn’t complain if they lowered their prices, they are a good example of making positive change in health and environmental awareness.

The next time you’re at the grocery think twice before grabbing the first can you see.  When the Carmelina Brands garbanzos weren’t available at Whole Foods for me, I ended up grabbing Isola Garbanzo Beans instead.  The can said organic and I tend to associate that with tasty, especially when I am at Whole Foods. Most times those products are better, not only tasting, but for the environment.  Well in this instance, my theory did not hold true. The beans tasted like they had been soaked in a dirty sodium filled sock. I don’t know what that says about me considering I ate them anyway, but had I taken thirty seconds to note the high sodium content, I may have been enticed to try a better choice.  Taking an extra minute to read the nutrition label and heed health recommendations will lead to more nutritious choices, and, of course, avoidance of recipe wreckage!

We only get one body we need to take care of it!  Remember, long-term high sodium intake causes damage in the lining of blood vessels that may eventually become irreversible.  Apparently, once you’ve developed hypertension in this way, lowering your salt intake usually isn’t enough to normalize your blood pressure according to Dr. Fonarow.  So be an informed consumer and make the best choice for your well-being! As consumers we are the ones contributing to what is being offered in the market.  The food industry is not looking out for our health; therefore, we must be cognizant of our own health.  Reading nutrition labels is great place to start.

Two steps to incorporate this week to start making a difference:

  • Buy products that have lower sodium, (if they taste good of course)
  • Limit the high sodium foods, including restaurant foods that we demand.

Informed consumers taking responsibility for their health will help alleviate the need for government intervention and control on how much sodium is allowed in products. Fonarow M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, & associate physician in renal medicine says the key to high blood pressure prevention is moderation and watchful management of other cardiovascular risks. Fonarow’s words are similar to many health care providers’ and my own beliefs.  He says, “Avoid a high-salt diet, but also don’t smoke, watch your weight, keep your cholesterol down, and manage your blood pressure,” he said. “Those factors are probably even more important.”

Key points for better health: exercise regularly, and moderate the things you know are unhealthy.  Keep an eye out for products and businesses that are promoting health; real well-being is what we are seeking, not some shortcut pill, surgery, or diet.

Mangia Bene! (Eat Well) To Live well!


Long-Term Salty Diets Tied Again to High Blood Pressure But eating sodium-rich foods over the short term doesn’t have the same effect, study suggests By Barbara Bronson Gra

CDC Weekly Publication, 2/7/2012


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