Saturday, June 2, 2012

Salt - The Final Frontier

I'm not going to belabor this.

The last 2 posts detailed how easily you can ingest too much sodium by just eating breakfast and lunch.

Dinner is the really sad part.

Once I started counting the milligrams of sodium in the food I was serving my family, I sank into depression. I thought I'd been a great mom over the years...a good cook, someone who valued making food as much from scratch as possible, rather than buying prefabricated meals. I baked and cooked away earnestly for years, not understanding just how much sodium I was pumping into everyone's system.

One of our favorite meals is butter chicken. I make it from scratch, of course. Except for the Naan bread. I buy that and President's Choice brand is a classic example of how much sodium occurs in naan. A half a slice of the yummy Indian bread contains 610 mgs of sodium. Now, my 16-year-old son usually eats an entire slice by himself, and would probably eat two if I let him.

I make the butter chicken sauce, using canned evaporated milk, yoghurt, spices, butter, etc. It's a lot of work, and delicious. It still contains quite a bit of sodium. As I've detailed, all dairy products are quite high in sodium, and evaporated milk is no exception.

As well, sodium occurs naturally in chicken, and depending on what parts of the bird you eat, you can take in fairly significant amounts of sodium just from the meat in the recipe.Of course, if you add salt to your cooking or shake it on at the table, you add sodium. One level teaspoon of salt contains 2400 mgs of sodium. So if you add 1/4 tsp of salt to your recipe, you are adding another 600 mgs to the dinner. One-quarter teaspoon isn't much and I bet many people add more.

What I'm saying is that it's quite easy to eat at least 1000 mgs of sodium at dinner if you eat 1/2 slice of naan (a rather conservative amount) and some home-made butter chicken, with a small amount of salt added for taste.

If you rely on bottled or canned butter chicken sauce, you are looking at over 600 mgs of sodium in 1/2 cup of the prepared sauce.

So I figure that anyone who eats an entire slice of naan and butter chicken made with commercial sauce is easily eating 2000 mgs of sodium, and even more than that if, say, an entire cup of sauce is eaten (highly likely once you pour it over the's so yummy).

If you add the 600 from breakfast and 800 from lunch already consumed, your total for the day is 3400 mgs of sodium. Yet, we are supposed to aim for a maximum of 1200 per day and I'd argue that about 500 per day is all you really need. Above 500 you may be damaging your arteries.

Even the old standard of 2400 that experts used to espouse looks frighteningly small next to the actual number consumed.

Here's a final thought: the menus I've described are ones that I think are fairly typical. Many people would think the meals are "healthy." And they are when it comes to some aspects of nutrition. But not when it comes to sodium.

I figure that if you aren't eating such "healthy" meals as the ones I used as examples, you may be consuming even more sodium than 3400 mgs. per day. I bet some teenaged boys eat closer to 5000 mgs of sodium every day.

It's sickening to think about.

One final, final thought: many of us don't eat enough potassium, apparently. Potassium counteracts the bad effects of sodium in our bodies. So if you eat lots of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, you may be helping your body cope with the massive salt-attack it faces every day.

I've also started noticing that SOME commercial products which are high in sodium are also significant sources of potassium. It's something to watch for on food labels. I think some producers are actually starting to add potassium to commercial food to counteract the sodium content.

These are the brands I try to favor.

Have a great, low-sodium day! :)

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