Sodium overload in the so called “Healthy Diet”

by Academy Medical on February 23, 2012

We’ve known for some time now that too much salt is bad for us.  But “too much” can be a sneaky amount.  If your diet includes lots of pizza, cheeseburgers and deli sandwiches you’re going to have high sodium levels (though high sodium levels may be the least of your problems).  According to a recent article in CNN Health, “nine out of ten adult Americans eat too much salt each day.”  And, of course, high sodium levels lead to a “higher risk of heart disease and stroke” which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, particularly when we think of the foods that we know contains lots of salt.  But bread, poultry and cheese?  Yes, it’s the other stuff on the list, the foods we’ve been lead to believe are included in a healthy diet, that are surprising.  What are we supposed to do here?

Turns out the culprit lies less in the base food, say chicken, then in the way it’s prepared and served, as well as the all important serving size.  For example, a basic broiled skinless chicken breast (yum!) is fine (58 mg), but an original recipe KFC breast contains a whopping 1,060 mg of sodium!  Since The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans, that’s over 65% of the suggested daily limit for the average American in just one item of one meal!  Bread is another seemingly benign source of sodium.  A slice of oat bran bread can be as low as 100 mg of sodium but a cup of seasoned bread crumbs is over 2,100 mg.  Even a standard homemade sandwich with two slices of white bread begins with over 300 mg with just the bread.  Throw in a slice of American cheese and 3 oz of processed turkey and that “healthy diet” sandwich is pushing half your daily allowance. 

And who really eats 3 oz of anything anymore?  Americans have super-sized their portions of all foods at all meals.  As a society we take for granted the significantly larger serving sizes that now appear on our plate that just a generation ago.  We eat off larger plates, shoveling food with bigger utensils, while guzzling larger drinks of questionable food value.  Eating larger amounts of foods with high sodium content just exasperates the problem.

Finally, the trend of eating out more often has lead to a decline in the healthy diet.  Restaurants and fast food outlets know people see value in larger servings, and at the same time their sole objective is maximizing taste at the likely expense of a healthy diet.  And fast food is the biggest culprit.  Sodium content in all restaurant food significantly exceeds food prepared at home. 

While we live in a time where it seems most foods present one health hazard or another, reducing sodium is pretty simple.  It’s not the table salt we sprinkle so sparingly on our food at home.  It’s processed foods and eating out.  Get to know what those foods are and how to eat around them.  It may take a little more work but it will be so worth the reward!  Learn more about nutrition and sodium in one of the educational courses listed below.

- Nutrition and High Blood Pressure

- Laboratory Assessment of Nutritional Status

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