I am working on a project for my internship, which involves looking up nutrition information of restaurants and fast food places. I go through every single item and type in all the nutrition information for every single food item on a spreadsheet. Some things I have to include are the amount of calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, vitamin A, calcium, etc.
As I am doing this, I notice that most of these items are high in calories, fat, and sodium. No surprise there. That is how many restaurants try to make their food tasty and appealing to consumers. I say consumers because the people are consuming the food.
Most of the food items have at least half of the recommended dietary sodium intake. Some of the items have sodium content up to 2,000 milligrams (mg). It is recommended for most adults and children to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. For people with diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, are over the age of 50, is African American, they should reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
Sodium is an important mineral for your health. It has many functions. One of its functions is that is an electrolyte in the body. It helps maintain proper fluid balance, blood pressure, cellular osmotic pressure, and acid-base balance. It also aids in the transmission of nerve signals and aids in muscle contraction.
Although it is important for the body, too much sodium can cause health problems. If the body cannot get rid of the extra sodium, fluid builds up. This puts pressure on the heart and kidneys, which may increase blood pressure. Eating less sodium can help control these problems.
When eating out:
- Ask the waiter/waitress if the chef can cook the food with less salt. Even better, ask if the chef is able to use no salt when cooking your food. You can also ask which food items don’t have any added salt.
- Choose meals that have more fruits and vegetables in them. They are naturally low in sodium (almost none). Some of these fruit and vegetables are also high in potassium, which may lower blood pressure.
- Ask for condiments on the side, as condiments are usually high in sodium.
Other ways to reduce sodium intake are to:
- Read the nutrition label. Check the sodium content of the food. Look for foods that have “reduced sodium”, “low sodium”, and “no salt added.”
- Eat fresh food. That means, limit processed foods. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium. Instead, eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Cook from scratch.
- Taste your food before adding salt. Sometimes, you realize that you don’t need to add salt for flavor. Did you know that it is considered rude to salt your food before tasting it? It can be an insult to the chef.
- Use herbs and spices to help flavor your foods. Here are a few examples:
- Basil: Fish, lean ground meats, sauces, soups
- Garlic: Lean meats, fish, soups, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
- Ginger: Chicken, fruit
- Rosemary: Chicken, lean meat loaf, lean beef, sauces, stuffing, potatoes
- Cinnamon: Fruit (especially apples), breads
Reducing sodium consumption can help keep your heart strong and healthy. Be creative in the kitchen with the seasonings. Maybe you’ll find a new flavor combination you like that does not involve the use of salt.
What’s your favorite way to flavor your food?
Do you eat out? If so, how often?