Important things to know about sodium and the nutrition label

I am not a nutritionist, but I don’t think that you need to be an expert to learn important nutritional information so that you can make better decisions in your life. In the past 5 years my attention has been drawn very strongly to two things, nutritional information that we have on our food packaging and sodium. I am not entirely sure where it all started, but I do know once the glory the teenage ability to eat whatever I wanted and work off the weight gain easily left me nutrition became very important for me to learn. When I was little I would often read the nutritional information on my cereal as I ate breakfast, not really because I was interested, it was because I was bored and wanted something to read, but it did get me wondering. I mean what good is that information if you don’t know how it affects you, is it good that it has 6% of Vitamin A, what does 6% even mean. So I started researching how to best understand this strange chart that we are given. One of the biggest eye opening moments for me came when I read about the importance of the serving size. I have been guilty of looking on the back of a package and reading the information and thinking to myself oh that isn’t too bad, but careful re-examination of the label I soon realized that I was making terrible choices without even realizing it. Now again I am not an expert so I am not going to try and teach you all of the important things about this subject, this truly is something for either your doctor or nutritionist to really lecture you about. But if you are like me and want to learn what you can without having to pay someone for that information then you can take a look at Mayo Clinic, they have a wonderful interactive guide to learning to read a nutrition label that will help get you on the right path.

Now onto obsession number two, sodium. I am actually very blessed with a family history of low blood pressure so I never really thought about the dangers of too much sodium in my diet. But one thing I have struggled with was my weight and so I began to read all that I could find about weight loss. One of the things that I read over and over is how having too much sodium in your diet can lead to water retention, and here is the thing. Water retention is not true weight as many of you know, but what water retention can do is discourage you when you are trying to loose weight. It has been proven, if by nothing more then my own experiences, that if you try to loose weight, go on a diet, start working out and you get no results after a decent amount of time then you are far more likely to give up. But I started to think, what if it isn’t so much that my efforts are pointless but that I am counter acting the good with bad habits. So I began to read more about the importance of sodium in our diet and tried to understand how to decrease the amount I was taking it. What I learned has changed how I think about food and cooking in more ways then I could have ever imagined.

Again I am no expert I am only taking information that I have learned over the years and compiling it together to help point you in the right direction, it is very important to also ask a doctor or nutritionist what is good for you. But there is one thing that I learned that I think is important I pass along to you, especially for women. Eating foods that have a lot of sodium may decrease your body’s ability to retain calcium. We need calcium to build strong bones, but if you eat too much salt, a lot of your calcium intake is directed straight out of your body via urination. This is something that I think should concern young women because it is the habits you have when you are young that affect you when you get older. A decrease in calcium absorption can lead to a loss of bone density, which as you know leads to Osteoporosis. Now of course I am not a doctor, I am not even trying to say a diet high in sodium causes Osteoporosis, these are just facts that we need to be aware of so that we can make the right decisions.

One last piece of information, for our bodies to function properly they say an adult needs a minimum of 500 mg of sodium a day, it is recommended that our daily intake not exceed 1,500 to 2,300 mg. This really means nothing to people, like me who really don’t understand what a mg of sodium looks like, so here are some examples of some common foods and their sodium levels. Again educating ourselves is the best resource we have to healthy living, though don’t just take my word for it, multiple sources of information is always the best way to get a more accurate picture.

1 can of Green Giant Green beans-serving size on package says ½ cup that means the whole can is approximately 2 cups, which means if you serve the whole can that is 1,600 mg of sodium.

1 box of Rice-a-Roni Chicken- Serving size is for this prepared is 1 cup, the whole box cooked makes about 2 cups. That means that the entire box prepared contains 2120 mg of sodium.

1 can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup- the serving size given on the can is ½ cup. There are about 1¼ cups in the whole can. So if you are like me and can eat the entire can in one sitting then you are taking in a whopping 2,220 mg of sodium!!

And because we often just can’t say no to the convenience of fast food-

BK Whopper with Cheese contains 1,430 mg of sodium