I am going to take a little rest from Diabetes for this blog but still cover a related topic, Hypertension or High Blood Pressure. A pretty common condition in people with or without diabetes.
High Blood Pressure has many causes some of which you cannot control like Ethnicity or Family History. Black Canadians for example are much more likely to have high blood pressure than other Canadians and people with several family members who have high blood pressure are more likely to as well. Things you can control include high salt intake and high levels of stress. Our old friend Stress once again rears its ugly head and we have talked about that before but Salt, well today we tackle Salt. By the way if you want more details on Blood Pressure visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s excellent page on this topic.
Even if you do not have high blood pressure one thing is not in dispute, Canadians eat way too much salt (sodium chloride) on a daily basis, recent reports have said we eat even more than our American cousins which is amazing when you consider the prevalence of fast foods high in salt in the USA.
Salt, the sodium part in particular is needed by your body to regulate fluid balance and in the function of many organs and glands and our tongues have fairly large areas that are stimulated by sugars and salts but this is not why we have gone overboard in its consumption. Salt is inexpensive, it enhances the flavour of many foods and can act as a preservative, in other words it is the perfect addition in the food industry. Chicken and shrimp can be soaked in a saltwater solution to maintain plumpness even after packaging and freezing. Sauces and dips with salt added will be tastier to our tongue and are less likely to grow bacteria. The naturally occurring sodium or the occasional sprinkle from the salt shaker we use at the table are not the real problem, the real problem lies in the pre-made foods that we buy, everything from bread to cereals to meat and canned vegetables.
If you have high blood pressure or if you just want to improve your diet you will want to eat less salt, here is how to start:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. I know, I know the same old advice but there is a reason they don’t come with a nutrition labels, not much sodium or salt to worry about.
- Try looking at food labels for the amounts of Sodium. Currently Health Canada guidelines are set at 1500 mg per day as an Acceptable amount and a Maximum Upper Limit of 2300 mg per day for adults. So if you pick up a pickle jar and it says one pickle has 480 mg that is about 20% of the Maximum amount of daily sodium (many food companies use 2400 mg as their upper limit) you should have in a day. That’s a lot for one dill pickle.
- Even faster than label reading is knowing the likeliest sources of too much salt:
- Corned as is corned beef, pork, pigtail etc., means to put in a salty brine with sodium nitrate or some other sodium
- Deli Meats, pepperoni, bacon, hams, even turkey breast are likely to have been processed with salt or sodium nitrate
- Mustards, Ketchups, Relishes, Pickles, Soy Sauce, Salsas, Chutneys and Dips. The condiment portions may be small but they usually come with a wallop of salt
- Canned Vegetables e.g. Corn and Canned Fish e.g. Tuna and Anchovies are all likely to have salt added for the preservative effect, go with frozen vegetables whenever possible and fish packed in water
- All soups and dried soup mixes. You can make a perfectly good pot of soup at home and at the end add a package of Maggi Soup Mix or Cock Noodle Soup Mix and send the salt level through the roof, try adding a tablespoon of my homemade spice blend instead (see featured recipe section), all the flavour without the salt!
- Don’t even get me started on those dried noodle bowls/packages of soup, dreadful for salt and for fat
- Salt Cod, Salt Fish, Salted Herring, nuff said
- Finally, salty snacks, Potato Chips, Tortilla Chips, Crackers, Snack Mixes, Salted Nuts and Seeds are one of the biggest sources of salt in our diets
Once you learn where salt is most likely to hide just try to make sure that you are not having one of these “salties” at every meal.
For more information on Sodium visit the following Health Canada site: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/food-aliment/sodium-eng.php