Over the next several months I will try to tackle topics such as fat, sugar, cholesterol, and sodium in your diet. In this post I want to focus on sodium. First off let me say that sodium is vital to the proper function of the body. Too much sodium, just like anything else in excess can lead to all sorts of health issues.
In my first post this year I discussed my weight issue, subsequent heart problems, and near death experience. But how did I get to that point in the first place? It was common for me to go out for lunch at McDonald’s (or you could insert any fast food restaurant here) at least 3 times a week. At the time I did not realize the damage I was doing to my body. My usual meal would be a double cheeseburger, large fry, and a medium coke. In researching the nutritional information of the meal I found that it has 1150 calories, 48 fat grams, and 1515 mg of sodium. Not only was I having almost all my calories and fat in one meal, I was taking in more sodium than my body needed. Unfortunately lunch was not as bad as what I chose to have for breakfast most days. Normally I would stop at Sonic and get a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese burrito. That bad boy was loaded with 430 calories, 25 fat grams, and 1550 mg of sodium. The two meals together, list out at 1580 calories, 73 fat grams, and a whopping 3065 mg of sodium. I am getting sick just thinking about it. I am guessing that by the time you throw in snacks throughout the day and supper at night, I was eating around 3000 calories a day and trying to process over 5000 mg of sodium. No wonder I was obese and not well…and it looks like I am not alone. My home town of Topeka just recently made #8 on the top 10 most obese metro areas (with percent of residents considered obese). This list is put together by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index1 and even though the stats are questionable in my mind, we as a community should be very concerned that we even made the list. People ask me all the time how I lost my weight, and it’s simple. I stopped eating fast food.
A shocking statistic that I found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is that the average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is 3, 436 mg. The USDA recommends 1,500 mg per day for people middle-aged and/or with risk factors and 2,300 mg for everyone else.2 It’s not surprising that as portion sizes have grown through the years, so has the intake of sodium. This increase, along with stress, not exercising regularly and not maintaining a healthy weight has lead to numerous health issues. One of the more prevalent issues is high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is left untreated it can lead to more serious issues such as heart attack and stroke. According to the American Heart Association 1 out of 3 Americans have high blood pressure and many of them are unaware that they have it.3
So what can you do to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet and reduce your risk of high blood pressure? Your best bet would be to look for food that is minimally processed. Fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts, whole grains and non-canned beans would be great choices. Lean cuts of beef, poultry and fish are fine but check the packaging to be sure. Poultry (chicken and turkey) especially can be loaded with extra sodium. When out at restaurants ask your server for lower sodium options or if an item can be prepared without added salt. If you can’t avoid a trip through the fast food lane look for lower sodium items such as salads. Check out kid menu options, they are normally close to the actual recommended serving size for an adult so you can always go that route. Another thing you can do to help your body is to drink plenty of water.
Here are some cookbooks that are heart healthy. I am sure you will find recipes that have reduced sodium amounts and taste great:
1 Vitals – America’s fattest — and skinniest — cities revealed article from MSNBC