In previous posts of Know Your Nutrition Label we have discussed three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates and protein. In Part 5, I will discuss Sodium. Sodium is nutrient that is necessary for fluid balance in the body and is important for normal cellular function. Unfortunately, too much sodium in your diet increases your blood pressure. Sodium causes you to retain fluid thereby rising your blood pressure. When your blood pressure is too high you are at risk for heart disease and stroke. Also, the fluid retention tilts the scale and for some women it can derail your weight loss efforts.
The American Heart Association recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day for healthy individuals. If you have heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease or history of fluid retention you should check with your doctor as your daily requirement of sodium will most likely be far less than 1500 mg per day. Most of our sodium comes from processed foods and when dining out at restaurants. Sodium acts a natural preservative and it also increases flavor. Again too much sodium is harmful to your health, thus limiting your intake is essential to maintaining balance.
The food industry has saturated food packaging with many terms. The following a list of terms that you will find on food packaging:
- Reduced Sodium
- Light in Sodium
- Low Sodium.
Also, sodium can be hidden in other ingredients such as sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glutamate(MSG) and sodium bicarbonate.
You can limit your intake of excess sodium by reading the nutrition label. You can also limit your intake of salt by avoiding the salt shaker. A 1/4 teaspoon of salt equal 575 mg of sodium, which is more than a third of your daily requirement of 1500 mg per day.
In general processed foods tend to be high in sodium. Also, when you dine out you expose yourself to added salt. Thus you should opt for fresh, whole foods and avoid the salt shaker. Most people thing that salt makes their food flavorful. To the contrary it is the spices that give your meals flavor and taste. Add flavor to your food with spices such as turmeric, cayenne pepper, dill and rosemary and thyme to name a few. Experiment with a variety of spice, in this case “variety is the spice of life.”
In next the series of Know Your Nutrition Label I will discuss the general “Ingredients” section of the food label. Stay tuned.
by Marjorie Binette, MD