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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Hold the salt: We get way too much

  • According to the CDC, about 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. And the culprit is often the very the convenient or ready-made foods made for busy people.

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  • A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly all Americans eat more sodium than they should.
    According to the CDC, about 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. And the culprit is often the very the convenient or ready-made foods made for busy people.
    Dr. Christopher Reid of Reid Chiropractic & The Nutrition Center in Springfield, Ill., says he personally doesn’t worry about salt.
    “I have a great diet,” said Reid. But he acknowledges many Americans do not.
    “A lot of things that we think are good to eat may not necessarily be good to eat,” says Reid, a certified chiropractic sports physician and diplomat of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition. “Because we live such a fast-paced life, you get a lot of people eating a lot of fast food and a lot of processed food, microwavable stuff. These come pre-prepared, pre-packaged. They tend to be full of salt to give them flavor.”
    Heavily processed food, which can also contain sugar as a flavor ingredient, destroys nutritional value, Reid says.
    “We’ve got a huge problem in America. I try to define this with every person I see. I ask them about what they eat because it is a big deal, and it affects your overall health,” said Reid.
    Why the big deal
    The CDC report said the average American eats about 3,300 milligrams of sodium daily, not including salt added at the table.
    The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend a sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams per day. The recommendation is 1,500 milligrams per day for people age 51 and older, African-Americans and people who have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or high blood pressure.
    Too much sodium raises blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC. In addition, excess sodium can also throw off the sodium-to-potassium ratio, possibly leading to conditions such as hypertension, Reid says.
    “In our bodies, we have something called the sodium-potassium pump. This regulates sodium and potassium into each cell, which has to do with energy and all kinds of these things. There’s a certain balance that we want to maintain,” Reid says.
    Excess sodium can cause fluid retention, which, depending on a person’s health, can be hard on the heart, says Cheryl Burns, inpatient diabetes dietitian with the Department of Internal Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
    “I do a lot of diet histories with people, diet interviews, to help them know where to make changes, and it is a significant issue,” Burns says. “Some people are still doing home meals, scratch cooking, but not the majority of people. A lot of people are eating out or doing more convenience-type meals. There’s a lot of hidden sodium in those foods that people don’t typically recognize.”
    Page 2 of 3 - What to look for
    The CDC reports that 40 percent of sodium comes from 10 types of food:
    • breads and rolls
    • luncheon meats, such as deli ham or turkey
    • pizza
    • poultry
    • soups
    • sandwiches, such as cheeseburgers
    • cheese
    • pasta dishes
    • meat-mixed dishes, such as meatloaf with tomato sauce
    • snacks, such as potato chips, pretzels and popcorn
    Some foods consumed several times a day, such as bread, add up to a lot of sodium even though each serving isn’t high in sodium, the CDC says.
    The type of food consumed and portion control are important to consider, Burns says. She suggests people carefully study food labels when grocery shopping to choose products that are low in sodium. There can be large variations in sodium content between brands and companies.
    “Even in frozen chicken breasts, you would think you’re just getting a chicken breast, but depending on who’s manufacturing it, they may be adding a sodium solution for tenderness,” Burns says.
    Fast food or chain restaurants’ nutrient analyses can be studied online before people go out to eat. Burns says a website that can help people determine the nutritional makeup of foods is CalorieKing.com.
    “You always need to look at the serving size and portion, but usually for restaurants, it would be the whole serving,” Burns says.
    “Serving sizes are large when we eat out. I think that’s another place where people (have) … ‘portion distortion.’ We’ve gotten very used to eating what’s on the plate. It’s very easy to overeat.
    “Some people tend to eat fast, and they eat more than they need to, (which) is another issue.”
    An example
    When Reid eats out, he’ll typically order salads, such as a chicken salad or salmon salad, to consume protein and vegetables.
    However, “you’re always going to do better if you prepare your own food,” he says. “Eat as much whole food as you can.”
    Reid is a fan of whole food, preferably fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and some potatoes, such as sweet potatoes. When someone doesn’t have time to cook, he urges caution when it comes to “convenience” foods.
    “What we’re doing in America –– because we’re in such a hurry, because we don’t take time to prepare food anymore as a rule; because families don’t tend to sit down and eat dinners together –– we’re on the go constantly,” he said. “Our children are eating a lot of prepared fast food as we are going out to restaurants to get our meals and things like that.
    Page 3 of 3 - “The bottom line is, in moderation, that’s OK.”
    March is National Nutrition Month
    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages people to “Get Your Plate in Shape” with foods from all food groups and in appropriate portions. Learn more at www.eatright.org.
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