Since beginning my job with the American Heart Association nearly nine years ago, I’ve certainly changed my lifestyle. I now know that incorporating at least 30 minutes of physical activity into my days is not only a good idea, but vital to my health and well-being.
And I’ve really transformed the way I look at food, thinking about most everything I put in my mouth and really trying to look at food as fuel for my healthy body and mind.
I’m far from perfect. Yes, I enjoy a cookie or unhealthy snack from time to time as much as the next person. But there’s one thing I’ve dedicated myself to cutting almost entirely out of my diet: Excess sodium.
Most Americans consume more than double the 1,500 milligrams per day of sodium that our bodies need to keep functioning. This excess salt is raising our blood pressure and with that, our risk of heart disease and stroke. It made me wonder, why so much salt?
It turns out that even gourmet chefs describe salt as the one irreplaceable ingredient in their kitchens. But we also know that saltshakers are responsible for just 11% of the sodium we eat. It’s the taste of salt that attracts us, and over time we’ve all become addicted to the salty flavor. But it’s the “sneaky” salt that we don’t even know about being added to our processed foods that’s really alarming.
Once I learned about reading labels and how simple it is to turn around a can of soup, for example, and find out calories, fat content, protein, and of course sodium, I’ll admit I was shocked. As I went through the grocery store, it surprised me to learn that some of the saltiest foods we eat don’t even taste salty! Things like bread and rolls, lunch meat, pizza, sandwiches, poultry, and yes, a simple can of soup. This is because sodium has long been used as preservative to make processed foods last longer as well as to add flavor.
The good news is that breaking up with sodium isn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. Food manufacturers are beginning to offer low sodium alternatives. It’s often just a matter of comparing different brands of the same food item to find the lowest sodium. Fresh food and produce is always best if you can get it, but sometimes we need to buy canned items. In that case, I always look for low sodium options.
And what about that can of soup? Since I’m a bit of a “soup junkie,” and eat soup often, I simply found easy soup recipes that I could make myself, using low sodium broths and adding my own fresh ingredients. One of my favorites is this yummy Mexican Chicken Soup, found on the American Heart Association web site.
And when I’m shopping, I look for the American Heart Association Heart Checkmark, because I know they have already done the work of certifying those foods as low in sodium, fat and calories. And here are some great tips you can use to reduce sodium in your diet.
You can join me in breaking up with salt and not only ensure a healthy, longer life for yourself but, also, by spreading the word, you can help loved ones say good-bye to “sneaky salt,” for good. Take the pledge and start on the path to healthier living, the low salt way! Log on to www.bitly.com/goodbyesalt to get started.
Beth Langefels has been the communications director for the Miami Valley and Northwest Ohio Divisions of the American Heart and American Stroke Associations since 2006. She began her 25 year career in communications, public relations and marketing with a position in community relations at the Dayton Metro Library. She has worked for several prominent nonprofits in the community, including Hospice of Dayton, The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and SAFY.