Pop quiz: What contains more sodium: a chocolate shake or large fries? Of course you’re thinking, well it’s gotta be the fries, but truth is their sodium content is the same. Surprising right?
I was at the grocery store today and there was a chicken stock label proudly displaying the words: “Now with 25% less salt'”. My initial thought was, “How can they reduce it by so much?” The truth is that the salt content in some processed foods is staggering.
Unfortunately after all these years, I have come to realize that the food manufacturers don’t really care about your health. They care about selling you their stuff. They want you to buy things that look and taste good; not necessarily things that are good for you. And they are banking on the fact that most consumers won’t read the label. I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to say next. As your health advocate, I want you to start reading labels. I know, I know. It’s a drag. But reading labels is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health.
Your body does need salt, but eating too much salt is not good. Salt does a lot of good things like improve brain function, absorb potassium, improve muscle digestion and helps the blood carry oxygen from the tissues to the lungs. The Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada recommend consuming about 2,300mg of sodium per day. It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually only the equivalent to 1 teaspoon of table salt. They warn against too much salt consumption because:
A diet high in Sodium will elevate blood pressure and can potentially lead to stroke and heart disease.
Excess salt will make your kidneys work overtime to eliminate the salt.
Eating too much salt dehydrates you and isn’t good for your complexion.
When you look at a product at the grocery store and you read the salt content — which is labelled as Sodium — it will give you a percentage of RDI, or your recommended daily intake. If you consume an item that has 230 mg of Sodium, that’s 10% of you recommended daily (2,300 mg) intake. Try to choose products that have less salt and therefore a lower Sodium content on the package.
Patients will often tell me,”Yes but I don’t put much salt in my food.” This is the kicker. Salt from your salt shaker is only about 5% of the total salt in your diet. The majority of the salt that we consume is hidden. About 70% of the processed foods we eat contain high levels of sodium, and it really doesn’t take much: add 15 ml (one tablespoon) of soy sauce to your meal, and you’ve added 1,005 mg of sodium.
Here are some basic tips that are easy to implement to help you decrease the salt intake in your diet:
1. Try to eat real wholesome foods. Foods that are processed either use salt as a preservative or taste enhancer (MSG or its cousins).
2. Avoid cold cut meats. These are often high in salt.
3. Use sauces sparingly.
4. Make your own soups if possible. Soups are notoriously high in salt because they use sodium glutamate or a related. This will ensure that the soup does not taste like the can.
5. Popcorn at the movies are among the highest salt containing foods.
6. Switch to Himalayan Crystal Salt or Celtic Sea Salt. Table salt is chemically bleached, reinforced with iodine and has no minerals or nutrients. It is bad for you. Himalayan or Crystal salt is hand harvested, dried slowly and contains plenty of minerals, including calcium.