I missed it – and I bet you did too! Wednesday, November 7 was National Eating Healthy Day! Who knew? It turns out that the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) have created this promotion that is designed to improve the health and wellness of all Americans.
As part of the day, the AHA and ASA focused on increasing awareness of the perils of sodium as well as what they’ve termed the “Salty Six,” which are foods that have excessive sodium that can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. “Excess sodium in our diets has less to do with what we’re adding to our food and more to do with what’s already in the food,” said Dr. Linda Van Horn, a research nutritionist at Northwestern University. “The average individual is getting more than double the amount of sodium that they need, but there are ways to improve their sodium intake under their control.”
So why is salt bad for us? The Harvard School of Public Health points to studies that show that link salt intake and blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, higher consumption of salt, sodium or salty foods increases the risk of stomach cancer. And consuming a lot of sodium also has been linked to osteoporosis.
How much are we eating? And how much should we consume? The Harvard website points out that Americans take in one-and-a-half teaspoons or more daily. However, the recommendation amount is no more than one teaspoon (2,300 milligrams of sodium) daily. People who have or are at risk for high blood pressure should consume no more than two-thirds of a teaspoon (which is 1,500 milligrams).
So what are the Salty Six? Here goes:
- Pizza – This favorite food is filled with sodium. In fact, one slice can have up to 760 milligrams of sodium. Two slices probably will put you over the daily recommendation for sodium intake.
- Poultry – Sodium levels will vary based on how the poultry was prepared. For instance, three ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets has almost 600 milligrams of sodium. The AHA/ASA recommends opting for reasonable portions of lean, skinless, grilled chicken, although this, too, may have additional sodium.
- Soup – Canned soup often has high levels of sodium. Take a can of chicken noodle soup as an example. Just one cup can have almost 950 milligrams of sodium.
- Bread and rolls – One piece of bread can have up to 230 milligrams of sodium.
- Cold cuts and cured meats – Deli meats and prepackaged turkey often contain up to 1,050 milligrams of sodium.
- Sandwiches – The AHA and ASA note that sandwiches can be laden with sodium; in fact, they can easily go above 1,500 milligrams (which isn’t too surprising, considering the previous culprits, bread, rolls, cold cuts and cured meats).
There are other salty foods to be aware of, as well. Men’s Health suggests that you beware of the following:
- Noodles - Japanese somen noodles, have 280 milligrams of sodium per cup (without the broth) while seasoned ramen noodles have 1,43 milligrams per package
- Precooked frozen shrimp - Those bags of shellfish can be incredibly easy to use, but a three-ounce serving also can have 222 milligrams of sodium. Men’s Health suggests buying shrimp at the fish counter instead and asking the fishmonger to steam, peel and devein them for you.
- Frozen dinners - Various brands have up to 1,870 milligrams of sodium in them. Be sure to read labels of various frozen dinners before adding them to your shopping cart if you’re in the market for this type of convenient meal.
- Cornflakes – Men’s Health warns that two cups of this cereal has 532 milligrams of sodium.
- Ketchup and mustard - Both condiments are right around the 170-milligram mark per tablespoon.
- Smoked trout, salmon and turkey - These proteins are soaked in salty brine prior to being smoked. Men’s Health warns that a three-ounce serving of smoked salmon has over 600 milligrams of sodium.
- Cottage cheese - Per cup, cottage cheese has 918 milligrams of sodium. However, low-sodium versions are available.
So here’s a suggestion -- let’s make every day a “National Eating Healthy Day” by starting to focus on lowering the amount of sodium we consume through limiting the foods listed above as well as our use of salt. That’s a baby step that can lead to big health benefits!