This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about how certain products have way lower sodium than other brands- which is why it’s smart to read your labels.
Interested in a simple way to live longer? No, not medication to lower blood cholesterol. But a much easier prescription. Just decrease the amount of salt you consume every day. Incredibly most people are unaware of the huge amount of salt they’re ingesting and it’s killing them. Now President’s Choice is helping to educate consumers on ways to prevent a lethal blowout from excess salt. How are they doing it and why are there no TV ads about the dangers of salt?
Stephen Havas, is Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Maryland. He claims in the Nutrition Action Health Letter that the number of deaths from excess salt is equivalent to a commuter jet crashing every day in this country. And that “people should be outraged”.
Ideally we need 1,500 milligrams (mg) of salt daily. But most people consume 4,000 mg. and studies show the more salt ingested the greater the risk of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is like putting too much air in a tire. Blood vessels in the brain rupture from excessive pressure. The heart has to work harder to pump blood to other organs. And chronic hypertension causes kidney failure.
In non-industrialized countries that consume little salt, blood pressure of citizens does not increase with age. But studies show that one out of two Canadians over the age of 65 has hypertension. In the U.S., the Framingham Heart Study US revealed that at age 75 nine out of ten people have hypertension.
So how are people consuming so much salt? Salt, like sugar, is easy to ingest without knowing it. For instance, Tim Horton’s chicken noodle soup has 880 mg of salt, McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese, 1,100mg, Swiss Chalet chicken pot pie 1,420, a ham sandwich with mustard 2,340 mg, and a Rueben sandwich 3,270. And most packaged foods are loaded with salt.
The prime way to avoid excess salt is to buy foods with only a single ingredient. A few examples are fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, grains, nuts and fish. And remember that fast food chains such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s have fruit salads that contain a mere 60 and 80 mg of salt. That’s a powerful message.
Learn to be a smart consumer by reading labels. Grocery shopping is not a top priority for me, but in researching this column I discovered that President’s Choice provides shoppers with healthy choices. For instance, most soups contain from 700 to 1,000 mg of salt. But if you look at President’s Choice Blue Menu soups, they contain around 400 mg.
Recently I had three thin slices of salami for lunch and was surprised to read I’d just eaten 810 mg salt. The next time I’ll purchase President’s Choice Blue Menu uncured turkey breast that has only 60 mg in three slices.
If you pick up the wrong salad dressing, two tablespoons add 500 mg of salt. Compare this to President’s Choice Blue Menu Mango Vinaigrette with a mere 10mg! The list of smart shopping goes on.
How much does smart shopping pay off in lowering blood pressure? Norman Kaplan, an expert on this disease at the University of Texas, says lowering salt intake to 2,400 mg has about the same effect as blood pressure prescriptions. And for those already on hypertensive medication a low salt diet makes these drugs more effective.
Restricting salt is only one way to lower blood pressure. Losing weight, daily exercise and limiting alcohol intake to two drinks a day for men and one for women can have a significant effect on blood pressure.
Since hypertension and obesity often start with a faulty diet, concentrate on fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals and whole wheat bread. And don’t forget potatoes, bananas, halibut and tuna all rich in potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the effects of salt and few people get sufficient potassium.
Today pharmaceutical companies make billions warning us on TV about the dangers of high blood cholesterol. But don’t expect TV ads alerting us to the hazard of too much salt. There’s no pill to correct this problem. It’s just smart shopping. A good start is to look for the President’s Choice Blue Menu the next time you shop.