Judson Haims: We need to be smarter about killer salt and the foods laden with it
Special to The Aspen Times
Salt is hiding within more foods than we may think. Therefore, it’s quite likely that too many of us may be unaware of the levels we consume and the catastrophic effects it has on our health. It is not something we need to look for. Rather, it find us in nefarious ways.
Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride. Our body needs sodium to function properly. To support heart rhythm, balance the amount of fluid in the body, muscle contraction and transmit nerve impulses, our body needs less than 500 milligrams of sodium per day to function properly. Unfortunately, most Americans consume an average of 3,400 mg per day — almost six times what the body needs.
The “American Diet” that most people consume is riddled with excessive levels of sodium, and it is wreaking havoc on our health. Excessive sodium intake often leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. According to an article, “The Leading Causes of Death in the US for 2020,“ sodium-related issues account for four of the top 10 U.S. causes of death. Elevated sodium may also decrease the efficacy of drugs that lower blood pressure.
With little doubt, it is hard to manage sodium intake. Foods that most of us consume regularly are laden with hidden sodium. Bread is one of the worst culprits of hidden sodium. For example, consider that a sliced deli turkey sandwich with one slice of cheese and a little mayo can range from 1,385mg of sodium when made on sour dough bread with American cheese to 670mg of sodium when made with Food for Life 7 Sprouted Grains Bread, Boar’s Head Ovengold Roasted Turkey Breast and Colby jack cheese. With a little planning, you can cut the sodium level of a sandwich in half. The bread you choose along with your choice of turkey brands will make dramatic differences. Be aware of pre-packaged turkey as they often have higher levels.
Pizza and soups are other high sodium foods. Depending upon what add-ons you have, just one slice of fresh made pizza can range from about 500mg of sodium to a frozen slice with almost 800mg. (Who eats just one slice?) Soups are notorious for high sodium. Most cans of soup contain at least 2 servings per can, and therefore, a can of chicken noodle soup can contain 1,400mg to 1,800mg of sodium. However, Progresso makes a variety of low sodium soups that offer sodium levels closer to a 1,000mg per can.
There are foods that may reduce sodium levels. However, offsetting excessive sodium intake may not be the greatest plan in addressing health concerns. Foods high in potassium not only help the functioning of nerves and muscles, but also assist in maintaining normal levels of fluid inside our cells. According to an article from the Journal American Medical Association (JAMA) posted in a Harvard Chan School of Public Health Publication, “what may be even more important for health is the relationship of sodium to potassium in the diet. People with the highest ratio of sodium to potassium in their diets had double the risk of dying of a heart attack than people with the lowest ratio, and they had a 50% higher risk of death from any cause.”
Elevated sodium may also contribute to issues with sleep regulation and sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Ever take of your socks at night and notice your legs were puffy just above the top of the sock? While this could be due to kidney, liver or heart ailments, it may also be due to sodium levels. Elevated sodium levels often cause fluid to be retained in the body. When we are recumbent in bed, fluid may shift to the areas around the neck and thereby narrow the upper airway causing disruption to breathing and reduced oxygen intake.
Consuming high levels of sodium prior to bedtime may also cause people to retain more liquid, which might cause our bladders to cause us to wake up more frequently and lead to numerous trips to the bathroom.
High sodium levels are a concern for people of all ages. For parents with school-aged children, making daily lunch can be a chore within itself. Although it is understandable that limiting lunch options may add frustration, educating yourself of food options is not impossible. City Market, Safeway and Whole Foods offer many low sodium foods — you just need to have an inclination to find them.
For our elders who too often do not drink enough water, be cognizant that there may be a correlation to having elevated sodium. This may make you more prone to dehydration, diarrhea, delirium and even kidney concerns as your body is unable to regulate the concentration of sodium in the blood.
Shy away from processed and frozen meals. While convenient, they are too often riddled with preservatives and unhealthy sodium levels. According to the CDC, “About 70% of sodium consumed is from processed and restaurant foods.”
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.
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