The government distributed new guidelines for living a healthful life in order to battle obesity and weight-related diseases.
One of their suggestions is to reduce salt intake, which isn’t a surprise for diet and fitness experts who believe that getting rid of hidden sodium will lead to better health and faster weight loss.
The Lowdown on Sodium
Just discontinuing salting your food is not cutting sodium out of your diet. Salt you never see is in every processed, prepackaged food item in the grocery store and in many food items eaten at restaurants and bars. You don’t notice it, and often cannot even taste it. Boo. :(
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults are supposed to eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily (about one teaspoon); but they are eating more than 3,400 milligrams, which is a far jump from the reduced intake of 1,500mg for “persons who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.”
Why is it affecting the health of more than 73 million Americans who have high blood pressure?
Sodium restricts blood flow to the heart, not only causing high blood pressure, but also leading to heart attack and stroke. And, according to the CDC, “every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event.” Bad news.
Even if your blood pressure isn’t hypertension high, it may be higher than it should because of hidden sodium in your diet. –Linda Van Horn, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine
What has society already done to counteract sodium-lover’s bad habits?
The New York City health commissioner began an initiative to pressure the food industry and restaurant chains to use less sodium (after already banning trans fats). The United Kingdom have printed salt content on food packaging since 2004, using color-coded labels to warn people about sodium levels.
Until the whole of America catches up with the health of America, we need to take precautions against sodium buildup in our diet.
Shaking the Old Habit
How do we escape?
Rethink how you cook and take the time to check food labels. I’m guilty of salting water when boiling and putting extra salt on foods that seems bland. And when I check food labels, sodium usually isn’t on my top priority list (under calories and fat grams, as well as how much fiber and how many vitamins and minerals are in the food item).
Instead of adding soy sauce and salad dressing, try these simple techniques to remake your (sodium-reduced) diet…
- Choose frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned: A can of sweet peas has close to 400 milligrams of sodium, but fresh and some brands of frozen peas have little or none at all. I guess I’m doing a good job here! I buy frozen, if not fresh. If you do choose canned (Husband ONLY likes canned green beans), then rinse the contents before cooking and choose cans labeled “low sodium.”
- Think outside the box: Prepackaged rice and pasta mixes swim in sodium. Think Ramen Noodles. Instead of dumping in a spice packets, try any of these: herbs and spices, wine, balsamic vinegar and real (not cooking) sherry.
- Only salt the surface: Cook your meal salt-free, and then lightly sprinkle salt where you can easily taste it –on top of your cooked food.
- Watch condiments: Ketchup and mustard have WAY more sodium per serving than you think. Keep an eye on those labels. (This includes ALL condiments.)
- Eat foods high in potassium: While sodium can raise blood pressure, potassium can lower it. The average American woman needs 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, so pull out some bananas!
Cutting way back on processed foods plus spending a few days a week at the gym can seriously reduce your blood pressure. After weaning themselves off sodium, many women found themselves losing weight (because foods without sodium generally have less calories and fat grams). Avoid heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure AND lose weight?
What else do the U.S. Dietary Guidelines say? A lot, actually, and it’s really more of the same.
- Eat whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese or fortified soy beverages (I drink almond milk), vegetable oils such as canola, corn, olive, peanut and soybean, and seafood.
- Eat less of foods with added sugars, solid fats, including saturated and trans fats, refined grains and sodium.
- Eat more fish and dairy products, in general.
- Eat less well-marbled meat, poultry skin, bacon (NO!), sausage, butter and whole milk products and foods made with vegetable oils that have been partially hydrogenated, such as cookies, doughnuts, pastries and crackers.
- Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
According to nutrition advisor Alyse Levine, to promote weight loss, calories consumption needs to be decreased, which is one of the new U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Levine promotes the healthy eating habits recommended by the government, as well as tools available on Livestrong.com, such as MyPlate.
Read the whole interview with Levine here.
Well, I have addressed salt lovers. Now, I believe it is time to address those addicted to sugar. Debra Pivko wrote for Beachbody: Sugar Addiction Detox (101).
According to the article, weight gain isn’t the only consequence of having a donut…
Over-consumption of processed sugar can contribute to a number of conditions: tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, overgrowth of candida yeast, chronic fatigue, severe PMS symptoms, anxiety and even wrinkles.
In contrast, if you cut sugar out of your diet, you can shed excess weight, increase your energy, improve your concentration, improve your moods and possibly steer clear of diabetes.
But why do we crave sugar?
Sugar increases the levels of serotonin –a mood-elevating hormone –in our brain. When our body and brain begin to depend on the increased levels of serotonin, we become sugar addicts, relying on it for our well-being. When serotonin dips, we reach for cookies, candies, chocolate and more. Sugar also increases the levels of endorphins in our body (much more readily than exercise). Endorphins –the brain’s natural narcotics –make us feel good, and we get used to that feeling, even needing it during times of stress.
All of that sounds pretty okay, right? WRONG!
Sugar gives your mood a spike to happiness, but that spike doesn’t last very long. You will crash, which leaves your body craving more sugar. Why? Sugar takes away more energy than it gives. Think empty calories. What does it do to us? It makes us anxious, moody and exhausted.
So what are those other ways sugar can affect us negatively?
- Suppresses the immune system
- Increases risk of blood clots and stroke
- Contributes to hyperactivity, depression and difficulty concentrating
- Can lead to hypoglycemia, kidney damage, elevated levels of harmful cholesterol, cardiovascular disease and tooth decay
- Helps speed the aging process (wrinkles and gray hair)
- AND MORE!
That is exhausting!
The first step in breaking sugar addiction is making the decision to stop eating it completely for at least a few days to get it out of your system.
It is. Sugar inspires cravings the more you give in to them. The only way to break the cycle is to stop feeding the beast, and then your craving should subside substantially. You are going to be upset! Prepare thyself.
Ask yourself why you are eating sugar before you put it in your mouth. Habit? Special occasion? If you keep a food journal, write down the sugar you eat and why you ate it.
Americans eat the equivalent of about 31 teaspoons of added sugar every day (500 calories). Our bodies are not designed to handle that much sugar! The American Heart Association recommends that sugar be limited to 6-7 percent of your total calories, but that doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars in fruits and dairy products.
So what do you do?
Simply cut out foods with sugar, white flour and high fructose corn syrup (I know – anything delicious). Also, remember to check sauces and dressings… hidden sugar!
Eliminate it by removing ALL of these ingredients…
- Agave nectar/syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Fruit juice concentrate (apple, grape, or pear)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Malt syrup
Whole lot of everything… That is also exhausting! But it’s what’s best for you.
Here are a few more tricks for your taste buds.
Use spices and herbs to trick your taste buds into thinking you’re eating something sweet. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and other sugar-free flavors kick up many bland dishes and drinks.
Eat a healthy breakfast, too. What you eat for breakfast will actually influence your food choices for the next 12 to 15 hours, and influence your energy levels, moods and overall sense of well-being. We know that eating a healthy, balance breakfast can help us in the weight department, but it can also provide you energy through the day, stabilize blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings! Go oatmeal!
Eat throughout the day. I am doing much better at this than I used to. None of my day-time meal/snack servings are bigger than the size of my fist and usually do NOT consist of anything fried and unhealthy. Dinner is usually a larger portion, but it’s also my final portion! And I usually stop eating before I’m full. Eating through the day helps me, and many others, avoid impulse eating (like binging at the snack machine during my night classes).
Finally, find alternatives for when you have a craving. Fruit is always satisfying, and an apple will fill you up.
Check it. Diet Food for Sweets Addicts
The article also agrees that America’s love of sugar is an addiction –even more than that –researchers found that chocolate addicts exhibited cravings, behaviors and psychopathology similar to drug addicts.
Whatever will we do? Lots of suggestions!
- Frozen Yogurt (low-fat or fat-free)
- Sugar-Free Gelatin (I love Jell-O!)
- Vanilla Wafers (Be careful with these… I can eat an entire box if I’m not paying attention.)
- Imitation Whipped Cream (made from skim-milk
Ladies, just because we’re made of sugar and spice and everything nice, we cannot fall victim to cookies. We must stay strong against chocolate chips… Shoot. Now I want some cookies! Wish me luck? I’ve already had some this week.