No, sodium does not have a first and last friendly-sounding name like Ted Bundy or Richard Ramirez; nor does it make random choices – trolling for its next victim, waiting for the right moment to kill.
Consuming too much sodium is killing us all quietly, in many cases under the guise of healthy food. And unlike serial killer victims, we can see it coming and get out of harm’s way, but we don’t.
SODIUM: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT
Sodium is a major silent killer in our nutrition, residing in, large numbers or small, most of our processed foods; hidden because though we can’t always taste it, it’s still there threatening to wreak havoc.
Take bread for example. Look on any nutrition label of a loaf of bread – sliced, hamburger, hot dog rolls or biscuits, you pick – and your eyes scroll down to the sodium content. (Don’t read nutrition labels? Please start.)
In a package of eight hamburger rolls, there are 200 mgs of sodium – that’s 200 mgs PER SERVING, which means per roll. But eat a slice with nothing on it. Do you taste those 200 mgs? I didn’t; but that doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
Here’s a more extreme example.
I discovered Morning Star’s new plant-based burger in Giant’s freezer section and of course I had to try it.
I knew the sodium content would be high, it’s always high in any plant-based burger, and the nutrition facts proved me right.
The package contained two burgers, and a serving was ONE burger. In one burger there was … wait for it … 630 mg of sodium.
Did that sink in? 630mgs. of sodium!
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), our recommended daily allowance of sodium per day is 1500 mgs. With just one of these burgers, I consumed almost half of my recommended sodium allowance.
Did they taste salty? No! Delicious, but I would not have known they had that much sodium if I hadn’t read the label.
HIGH SODIUM COUNT EQUALS HEALTH RISKS
Because I follow a low-processed food, plant-based diet, I may not have exceeded my 1500 mgs that day but there’s always a chance that I did.
Check this nutrition label of my coconut coffee creamer: 15 mgs sodium per serving doesn’t sound like much right? But the SERVING SIZE is only one tablespoon.
One tablespoon creamer per mug of caffeinated, decaf, or half-caff coffee? I wish I was that responsible.
The thing is, regardless of whether we’re eating the wrong foods or eating so-called healthy foods, filling our bellies with too much sodium puts us at risk for hypertension, stroke, and heart disease issues at any age, but particularly for the 50 and over crowd.
But we do have options if there are foods we insist on keeping in our diets:
- READ LABELS: Processed foods will usually have some level of sodium. Keep track of how much sodium you’re consuming.
- Better yet, LOWER PROCESSED FOOD intake: Fresh veggies are better than canned; mac-n-cheese from scratch has less sodium than Shells ‘n Cheese; stove-popped popcorn is WAY better than microwaved popcorn.
- Eat POTASSIUM-RICH FOODS: According to the American Heart Association, potassium-rich foods are an effective dietary approach to control sodium because they help to push sodium out of our bodies. Potassium-rich foods include, but are not limited to spinach, sweet-potatoes, bananas, lentils, oranges and orange juice.
- DRINK WATER: Drinking more water can help flush some sodium after eating a food high in sodium. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat as much sodium as you want with hopes that water will flush it out.
Keep in mind:
Water is not a cure for a high-sodium diet.
Potassium-rich foods are not cures for high-sodium diets.
High-sodium plant-based burgers are a ONCE-A-MONTH treat for me. The sodium content in these and most processed, vegan foods are too high to consume daily.
Sodium is hiding in most of the processed foods we eat and drink; and our bodies pay the ultimate price when we consume too much. For optimal health, it’s best to try and follow the FDA-recommended sodium levels; limit processed foods; increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables – particularly those rich in potassium – and make sure we drink enough water.
Let’s toast to our health!