Monday, January 16, 2012

Sodium, Sodium

I know I have posted about how I am careful to watch my sodium intake.  Sodium is a sneaky little element that's in the majority of the foods that we eat. There are many forms of sodium, and several of them may be added to foods. Some sodium does occur naturally and generally I don't make a fuss over that. It's the extra sodium that I look at.  As long as I'm in my suggested daily range, and the sodium is found naturally in foods, I'm okay with it. There is such a thing as having too little sodium, and that's not good either.  It's the sodium that is added to foods, such as processed foods or preserved foods, that's not good. Adding salt to your food also is not the best idea. 

We all need sodium, but the amounts that are found in some restaurant meals are more than we need in an entire day. An individual should eat less than 2300 mg (milligrams) of sodium a day. Just one restaurant meal can exceed this. More than that, at some places, just one item can exceed that allowance!

I found a difference in data but only one teaspoon of table salt contains 2300-2325 mg of sodium. That's the maximum anyone should have in a day, and more! I actually eat less than this. I like to keep my intake between 500 mg and 1500 mg, generally eating between 1000 mg and 1500 mg. Sodium is one of those hidden values that can hinder weight loss efforts, because too much sodium will cause you to retain water. This is bad for your body system which, no matter if you want to lose weight or not, is unhealthy for you. In the long run too much sodium can hurt you in other ways, for example by leading to high blood pressure.

My sodium post was prompted by a meal that I ate yesterday. Just one meal contained 2030 mg of sodium. This restaurant meal contained half a turkey sandwich and a cup of soup.  Just so you're aware, soup is generally a higher sodium food, especially canned soup.  My daily total of sodium for the day yesterday was 2534, about 1000 mg (in some cases more!) more than I had every day last week. My intake for one meal was higher than my total daily intake on an average day.

I can't imagine what this would have been like had I eaten at a fast food restaurant that served burgers or fried chicken items and french fries.  Or had I eaten somewhere that served a larger meal. Yikes!!

I am typically not a fast food eater just because it is so unhealthy. I have been in situations that I have had to eat a fast food meal (because it was either that or don't eat), but if I'm in that situation I keep it as healthy as possible.  These are also rare instances. I've eaten fast food less than a handful of times in the last year, because I avoid it as much as possible. It's just too unhealthy and not worth it to me.

However, I can understand that some people may want to eat a fast food meal every now and then.  Just make sure it's only every now and then! I know people who eat most of their meals out.  I can't even begin to imagine what their daily sodium intake is.  It's important to make healthy choices when you eat out, because even those choices can contain a lot of sodium.

Sodium is one of those values that we often overlook. Most people pay no attention when it's actually very important to do so.  Another such value is carbs. By the way, that meal I had last night contained 75 mg of carbs. Unless people are on a specific diet or are typically healthy eaters, I'd guess that most people do not watch their carb intake very well. Actually, this probably goes for other values, like iron, as well. I've learned that tracking what I eat is something I need to do in order to track everything - not just calories and fat.

Your dietary intake isn't just about the fat and calories that you take in. There are many more values that are important to keep track of. These values can impact on your health in many different ways. It's really important to be mindful of what you're eating and how it might impact on your body.

Paying attention to and tracking my intake really has helped me to be aware of what I need and what I don't need.  It has helped me to lose weight. It has helped me to improve my overall health.  It doesn't take very long to read labels, research restaurant nutritional data, and track what you've eaten.  My health is worth making this small effort.


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