What started us on our journey to regain our health was Marty’s awareness back in 2009 that he needed to cut out as much sodium as possible from his diet. He had been able to lose some weight on the Atkin’s diet –high protein and fat, low carbohydrates - but he still had issues with high blood pressure and his weight had plateaued.
For many years prior, I had stopped adding salt to meals that I cooked for the family. This new restriction of sodium was going to go beyond the table salt. He and I examined every can, bottle, box and package of food that was in our pantry and refrigerator. We read the nutrition labels with a focus on the ingredients, looking out for the word “sodium” (including sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, sodium phosphates, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium bicarbonate, monosodium glutamate [MSG] and sodium benzoate). We also looked to see how much salt there was per serving. Since we hardly ever ate the tiny portions recommended on the label we did the math and were amazed at the amounts of salt we were consuming in all this processed food.
Once we got started on this mission to cut out excess salt we frequently heard others say, “I don’t add salt”. Most people do not realize that the majority of the sodium in the American diet is found in packaged, processed food and served in restaurants. According to the Center for Disease Control about 90% of Americans eat more sodium that is recommended for a healthy diet. There was salt in just about everything we were eating, and high amounts that were just not healthy. Lots of food got thrown away in clearing out our refrigerator and pantry. Some we donated but most got put into the trash bin. This was not easy for us to do. We tend to be frugal and the throwing out food went against our value system. So we rationalized it as purging the poison in our house that we would otherwise end up eating to our detriment. We easily justified the expense of getting rid of the toxic substances. More research was needed to help us define healthy foods since we had to figure out what we would eat since now the cupboards were bare.
In order for Marty to follow his no salt rule I knew we had to create a supportive environment at home. By being supportive we can help the other person reach their goals, act as a sounding board when times get tough, celebrate the successes and hold them accountable for keeping their commitments. I was willing to change my habits if it supported him. How I shopped for food, the menu choices I made and how I prepared meals would dramatically change. We also knew that eating out would become more of a challenge. We were committed to eating foods that would encourage a healthy lifestyle. The immediate bonus of reducing salt intake was that we both dropped a few pounds right away since salt plays a role in retaining liquids in the body. This initial weight loss provided the encouragement we needed as we saw our number on the scale trend downward. Over time we also improved our blood pressure. Carrie got to within normal range of less than 120/80 and Marty reduced the dosage needed for his hypertension medicine. We also realized that Marty was more salt sensitive so Carrie did not need to cut back as much.
- Read the nutrition labels with a focus on sodium content.
- Aim for no more than 140 mg sodium per serving.
- Cut back to the CDC’s recommended level.
- Get rid of the “poison” that is damaging to health.
- Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
U. S. Food and Drug Administration Helping Consumers Reduce Sodium Intake
Be careful of products that claim to be "light". Prego Italian Sauce Light Smart is certainly not light on sodium with 410 mg of sodium in a half cup serving. Add in the amount of sodium that's in the pasta and cheese (and maybe even the chicken cutlet) that could accompany this sauce. Wow! Now that's a lot of salt.
By comparison Trader Joe's Organic Marinara Sauce No Salt Added has 35 mg of sodium per serving. Reading the nutrition labels and comparing products can make a difference in what you choose to eat for your health. By the way, we take it a step further and make our own sauce. It's so easy to prepare and we know exactly what's in it.
We discovered that cutting down drastically on our salt intake by deliberately reading nutrition labels and making wise choices allowed us to easily shed pounds and regain our health. We focused specifically on eliminating processed foods, and baked goods. We introduced more whole foods into our meals, i.e. vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains. Are you aware of the amount of salt you eat in a day's time? Would you consider reducing your salt intake to improve your health?
Read more in our post: Science Based Strategies and Culinary Insights for Cutting Back on Salt