Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sodium. How Much Is Too Much?

Salt. I used to add it to almost everything. Then I started to cook at home more and use less salt and sure enough, my taste buds changed. Now when I go to restaurants, I usually can’t order the soup or anything with sauce. It’s almost always way too salty.

The RDA of sodium for adults is 2400mg. This number should be reduced to 1500mg a day for individuals with high blood pressure, African Americans or anyone over the age of 40.  This sounds reasonable, but how much IS 2400mg of sodium?

One teaspoon of table salt has about 2300mg of Sodium! One teaspoon of soy sauce has about 300mg. How much sodium does Denny’s Lumberjack Slam Breakfast contain? Almost 4500mg of sodium! And that is before most customers add even more salt to the eggs or potatoes. Scary. 1 cup of chicken soup usually has between 850-1200mg of sodium, sometimes more. I guess it should come as no surprise that Americans consume on average over 3400mg a day.

What can you do?

Read labels and compare products. It seems logical that if you are buying something, let’s say Ricotta cheese, that most of the brands will have about the same amount of sodium, right? Nope. Safeway’s Ricotta cheese has more than double the amount of sodium as Sargento’s Ricotta cheese! I was surprised, so I started to pay more attention to the sodium content for the same food made by different brands. What I found was that the amount of sodium varied dramatically.

I encourage my clients to stay away from frozen meals because of the long ingredient lists, preservatives and high sodium content. Here is an example of taking in over 2 days of sodium in one meal. Swanson’s Hungry Man Turkey Dinner has over 5400mg of sodium!

The best bet if you want to reduce your sodium intake is to cook meals at home and stay away from packaged foods and restaurant made meals. When grocery shopping, check labels and always compare products.

Sodium in moderate amounts is fine, but what most Americans consider “normal” or “moderate” is usually around 3400mg of sodium a day. Wow! Not only is that well above the RDA, it is almost 3 times what the American Heart Association recommends on their website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Food Cravings

Photo By: Maria Quiroga


Often cravings are our body’s way of telling us that something is missing in our diet. Have you ever wanted salty potato chips and then after you devoured a bag you still weren’t satisfied? Have you craved a cupcake, given in and then found yourself even more hungry an hour later? Sometimes giving into your cravings only makes things worse because you aren’t satisfying the real reason behind your cravings.

Craving salty foods like chips or pretzels? Usually if you crave salty foods you could be deficient in sodium, have inadequate mineral levels or maybe you just aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day.

Do you crave chocolate all of the time? This craving could mean you may have a B vitamin or magnesium deficiency. It is also worth noting that chocolate is addictive because it stimulates dopamine and contains Phenylethalmine, which stimulates endorphins to be produced. No wonder so many people crave chocolate!

What about if you crave sweets and carbohydrates like cake or cookies? This craving is often the result of not enough nutrients and essential fatty acids in your diet. Another reason is the “high” people get from eating sugary treats. Sugar’s sweetness releases endorphins that offer us this “high” and relaxes us. Ask yourself if you are seeking cake for comfort.

Although cravings usually exist because of some sort of deficiency as I have mentioned, sometimes we get cravings because we aren’t getting enough sleep or are trying to fill an emotional void.

So, what can you do to tame your cravings? Try supplementing or adjusting your diet if you aren’t getting enough nutrients with essential minerals and essential fatty acids. Some people swear that including flax seed oil in their daily diet cuts their cravings tremendously after only a few days. Make sure to balance your blood sugar by eating nutritious meals that include protein throughout the day. Avoid eating close to bedtime and get a restful 7-8 hours sleep every night. If you believe your cravings are emotional, try to get to the root of the problem/stress. Sometimes going for a quick walk or exercising will curb the craving as well. Experiment and see what works for you.

Society sometimes labels cravings as a weakness, but I disagree. I see cravings as an opportunity to ask yourself  “why?”. Next time you crave something, ask yourself why and take a look at your diet and state of mind. Try to deconstruct your craving and see what you come up with.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Easy Resolution for 2012. Stop Using the Microwave Oven

Here is an easy resolution. Eat healthier by avoiding the microwave oven. Microwaved food is less healthy than raw or traditionally cooked foods. Microwaving destroys nutrients and can even be carcinogenic

In college most of us only had a microwave oven and a small square refrigerator to call a kitchen. I heated up everything from soup to vegetables to pizza. I didn’t think twice about microwaving my dinners and it wasn’t until I moved into my first apt in NYC that I started heating food without a microwave. Food tasted different. Food tasted better. What was the deal?

I remember as a kid being told not to stand to close to the microwave oven while it was on because it emitted dangerous radio waves, but why was microwaved food OK to eat? What is the deal with microwave ovens? Are they safe? This article does a nice job of explaining.