Sodium in Processed Foods: The Silent Killer?

It’s no secret that we have too much salt in our diet.  Although the body only requires about 180-500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, we typically ingest almost 4,000 mg.  Currently, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, but this amount will be reduced to 1,500 mg by 2020.  More on that later…

Consider that just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium.  Even if you do not add salt to your foods, you would be bound to get more than the recommended amount.  This is because about 77 percent or more of the salt you take in comes from processed and prepared foods.

The main sources of sodium in the average U.S. diet.

Why should we care? 

Dietary sodium is positively associated with elevated blood pressure and hypertension, which is a “risk factor” for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, a “silent killer”.

The American Medical Association estimates that cutting the amount of salt in processed foods by half could save 150,000 lives in the United States each year.

In 2010, AHA recommended that the daily value for sodium be lowered to 1,500 mg by 2020 with an intermediate goal of 2,000 mg by 2013. This two-step phase would aim to provide manufacturers with time to reformulate products and identify acceptable salt substitutes; as well as, allow consumers to adapt their taste sensitivities to the lower sodium content in foods. 

With processed foods accounting for 77 percent of all sodium consumed, it will require the operation of food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the sodium content of the foods they make available to the public. AHA would like to see food manufacturers and restaurants reduce the salt added to foods by 50 percent over the next 10 years.

What can we do?

Here are six simple ways to keep your sodium intake at bay:

  1. Eat more fresh, unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium.
  2. Reduce the amount of sodium in canned foods by thoroughly draining and rinsing them.
  3. Go easy on high-sodium condiments like soy sauce, mustard, and ketchup; and use herbs, citrus, and salt-free spices like fresh garlic or garlic powder, cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, fresh ground pepper, tarragon and oregano, which offer good substitutes for salt and sodium.
  4. Downsize portions. The more calories in a meal, the more sodium in the meal.
  5. Take control when eating out at a restaurant.  Ask the chef to prepare your meal with less sodium or without any forms of sodium, and then add a dash of low-sodium seasoning that you brought from home.
  6. Read nutrition labels on foods to compare before you purchase.  Be aware of high sodium present in many processed foods such as the following:
Food Amount Sodium (mg)
Smoked salmon 2.5 oz 1428
Turkey, luncheon meat 75 g 900
Baked beans ¾ cup 800
Coffee shop raisin bran muffin 1 muffin 790
Spaghetti Sauce ½ cup 635
100% whole wheat bagel 1 bagel 540
Vegetable drink 1 cup 529
Cottage cheese ½ cup 485
Whole wheat English muffin 1 muffin 420
Beef hot dog 1 hot dog 412
Instant oatmeal ¾ cup 314
Cheddar Cheese 50 g 310

Real Weight Loss Stories | Amanda A.

Real Weight Loss Stories | Amanda A.

I had a baby five years ago and realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get the weight off without help.  I had a back problem that was headed towards surgery, and my doctor had said that I needed to lose weight. None of my clothes fit and I was just miserable.   I also suffer from Ulcerative Colitis.  Both the back problem and the UC meant occasional doses of steroids, which led to my weight gain. It became a vicious cycle of meds, weight gain, depression and inactivity that led to more weight gain, more back pain, and resumed medication use.

I started the Greenlite Medicine program on Friday, August 13, 2010 (lucky for me); and I weighed even more than I thought—192.7 pounds; my BMI was 29.3; and my body fat was 41.7 percent! I couldn’t have done it without the support of my health educator Elaine. She has been amazing, straightforward; and has lots of tips for helping me (like lemon in my water bottle, as lemon and water both have clarifying actions in the body; and acts as a natural detox). Being held accountable every week has made all the difference in the world.  Also, having a list of foods I could get easily from Trader Joe’s has really been helpful.

Before I had a family of my own, I had successfully completed Jenny Craig—but that didn’t help me in the real world.  You can’t eat packaged meals when you have a child; it was finally time for me to learn how to eat properly.

Honestly!  I had tried everything else!  The idea of initial help with medication appealed to me; but, the fact that this program isn’t over once you lose the weight was also a big factor.  My real journey is beginning now—re-introducing regular eating into my diet and helping to plan my life after my diet.

Now that my back is better because I weigh less, I work out about 4 times a week with cardio interval training, and lift weights twice a week.  I can go to the park, play ball, and chase after my daughter on her scooter.  Going to the gym has made a huge impact not just on me physically, but emotionally. I walk my child to and from school whenever I can and take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever possible.  A new Ipod shuffle was one of the non-food rewards I bought myself and I loaded it with my favorite upbeat tunes that helps keep me motivated during my workouts.

My back doesn’t hurt all the time; I can be up and about with my daughter.  I’m not laid up for weeks on end.  Even more significantly, since I started with Greenlite, I have realized that my UC outbreaks weren’t due to dairy products (which I can now eat in moderation); but rather due to processed carbohydrates (cookies, crackers, white bread, pasta, rice).  Since I cut down the consumption of processed carbs from my diet, the UC flare ups have totally gone away. This in turns means no steroids to control the outbreak, and no weight gain! Greenlite has empowered me to break the vicious cycle of meds, weight gain, depression and inactivity, through mindful eating.

The two day protein only has been a fantastic help when I get off track (and I still do!).

The biggest impact for me was seeing my before picture, yes I looked significantly heavier but it’s the expression on my face that struck me, I looked miserable.  And I was—from going to the closet every day and having to struggle into clothes, to not being comfortable standing for long periods of time.  Also, being laid up for weeks at a time because my back had gone out, and having to take more medication.  Everything is better now.  My UC is not flaring – I can eat dairy in moderation and I’m happier.  This is by no means the end of my struggle; I will have a lifelong battle with food and emotional eating but I’m on the right path.  Greenlite doesn’t just take my after picture and send me on my way; they continue to support and guide long after the “goal” weight has been achieved.  That was super important to me; I need this to not be a diet, but a lifestyle change.

Should Carbohydrates be Treated as an Addiction?

By Allison Helms D.O.

Based on recent studies, there has been increased success with treating obesity and disordered eating as a type of addiction to a substance. Addiction is by definition the “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance”. With this definition in mind, should carbohydrates be treated as an addiction? Wouldn’t a successful “addict” be able to achieve life-long “sobriety”? For clinicians that are using this approach toward carbohydrates, the answer is an emphatic yes!

Many people describe cravings for carbohydrates (especially sweets and starchy foods) during times of heightened stress. When people attempt to limit their intake, they experience symptoms similar to “withdrawal”, which include fatigue, irritability, lack of control, increased cravings, anxiety and depression. It may seem extreme to think of food as an addiction compared to a substance such as alcohol or heroin, because with the latter, they are socially unacceptable addictions, and complete abstinence dictates successful remission. Food (including carbohydrates) is what our bodies need for energy and nourishment, so if we feel we are “addicted”, overcoming the physiologic and behavioral factors that drive the addiction can feel impossible to comprehend.

From a physiologic standpoint, researchers have found that obese patients are deficient in the number of dopaminergic (D2) receptors in the brain. The same deficiency of D2 receptors has been attributed to drugs of abuse such as cocaine and heroin, suggesting a link between a range of compulsive behaviors. Furthermore, this lack of D2 receptors in obese individuals makes them less sensitive to reward stimuli, thus increasing their risk for food consumption as a compensatory mechanism.

Treatment with a carbohydrate addiction model has been used by clinicians to help patients understand the struggle with disordered eating and obesity. Sustaining weight loss is not simply a short term goal of reduced caloric intake and exercise, but rather a lifelong process that involves food choices based on the effecting behaviors and reducing cravings. The addiction model also helps patients understand that they will have relapses, and that retaining “carb sobriety” may require almost complete elimination of sweets/starchy foods permanently.

Along with nutritional education, teaching problem solving skills directed toward eating, emotional, and relational management has demonstrated improved maintenance of carb sobriety and weight loss. By recognizing disordered eating as a multi-faceted cause of obesity, using treatments that address each individual’s needs (biochemically, psychologically and socially) will ensure successful long-term maintenance of weight loss and relapse prevention.