Friday, October 23, 2009

A dash of salt

Recent problems with my blood pressure have forced me to read a new line on food labels. Now I look for sodium content.

My doctor told me not to eat anything with over 500 mgs of sodium in it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to eat a low sodium diet when you're not much of a cook and when you eat nearly every meal alone?

Sodium is in everything. Canned goods. Soups. Practically every frozen TV dinner. Rice-a-Roni has 1100 mgs a serving! It's nothing but salt. (I mention that because it is among the highest I've found.)

Capt'n Crunch cereal has 200 mgs of sodium. Most cereals seem to be okay if you go by the under 500 mg guidelines. Unfortunately I don't eat a lot of cereals, not because I don't like them but because I stay away from gluten. That means I eat very little wheat and I limit oats. Rice and corn don't seem to bother me, leaving me a choice of Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies in the cereal isle. I do eat Bob's Gluten Free hot cereal in the winter and enjoy that. I need to remember to check the salt content on it and buy some if it's an allowed food.

What I'm learning is that if I eat any processed or pre-packaged food, I need to limit it to one a day. Otherwise I get too much sodium. That means I really need to limit how often I eat out, as well. Fortunately I only eat a meal out no more than twice a week, but still.

Chocolate, fortunately, has very little sodium (but lots of sugar, carbs and calories, of course). I also have learned that dark chocolate, which, thankfully, I like, can help lower blood pressure.

Granola bars also have very little sodium, I have found.

As for meats, ham is out (and I love ham). Actually, all deli meats are out, leaving me with the chore of cooking pork and chicken. I try not to eat red meat more than once a week.

Eating healthy when you haven't really focused on it is quite difficult. I am very envious of people who can do it and make it seem so easy.

If you have advice on how to better deal with sodium content in food, leave a comment. I'm trying very hard and willing to listen to most anything.


  1. This is not easy! I noticed Boar's Head makes a "heart healthy' line of cold cuts. I'm not sure if it still falls below your Dr.'s requirements, though. Can you eat eggs? They're high protein, no salt except what you add yourself. Once you're weaned off the salt, carbs or whatever, it gets easier. And then you'll feel so good, you'll be even more motivated to continue eating this way!
    Have you Googled low salt foods or menu ideas?

  2. We simply don't buy canned veggies other than chili beans or garbanzo beans. Buy fresh, Anita. It makes for a world of difference. A bit more money but so worth it. We have eaten pretty much a salt free diet for the past 12 years. Put your salt away.... buy "No Salt"... sodium free salt. And yes, Boars head meats are teh way to go along with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Fish... YUM! Use lemon juice for your flavoring. In time all of this will become second nature to you. Stay out of restaurants that fry their food.... You can do this! I'm cheering for you.

    The Blue Ridge Gal

  3. Lenora, when you consider that I'm trying to lower my cholesterol, not eat gluten, eat low carbs, lose weight, and not eat salt, it feels darn near next to impossible! I will check out the Boars Head and see how that looks. And I love eggs so I do eat a lot of those.

    Di - I never cook with salt or salt my food and never have. Whatever salt I get is in processed foods. Unfortunately, since I've never been much of a cook, I have eaten a lot of processed foods in my time.

  4. My advice... learn to cook even if only simple things. Spending time cooking healthy foods will keep you away from spending time sitting at the computer as well. Drink lots of water too. Flushing the system is good for the entire body. Time for a completely new lifestyle. Did you know that sometimes when we think we are hungry we are in fact thirsty? Take care of yourself... nuf said.

  5. Di - I can roast a mean chicken, make a good meatloaf, and stir fry to my heart's delight. But that's about it. To be honest I don't even know where to begin.

    But, yes it is time for a new lifestyle. Figuring it out is going to be a challenge for me, though.

  6. Anita, I feel your frustration. The hubby has high blood pressure and low thyroid. I try my hardest to fix stuff low in sodium, but it's tough. The stuff without sodium has no taste and he won't eat it.

  7. I think I just read some article, was it WSJ? that mentioned a new study that revealed that sodium might not be such a bad guy in regards to blood pressure. How current is your doctor with the new research going on? Is eliminating that much salt going to make that big a difference?

    Maybe I am being the devil's advocate, but am a bit skeptical when doctors throw out advice telling people to live on a diet they would never dream of following, just because of some research that is dated 20 years or more and maybe has been proven faulty or at least has not been substantiated over the long term.

    Taking on so many major dietary changes at one time would make the biggest food saint ready to go straight to Bojangles and pick up a big box of the fried salty stuff!

    Maybe targeting a couple of areas instead of so many? Maybe trying Redmond's Real Salt, a natural, unrefined salt that also has minerals in it instead of the Morton's white stuff? Maybe eliminating white sugar and white carbs for 6 days? No fake foods for a week?

    I am sorry and feel for you in your frustration. I remember when my father-in-law was told he couldn't eat salt, fat or red meats. Since I love to cook I would try to concoct meals using "doctor" approved ingredients. They were bland. Some things worked. Some didn't. It was hard.

    I will pray for you to have wisdom in finding the right food path for you and your husband. One that will help your body do what it is supposed to do. One that will allow you to enjoy the sensory aspect of eating. One that is not a huge burden.

    Hang in there.

    And sorry for the long comment. But before you completely throw out the salt shaker, check out current long term studies and some of the different info out there.

  8. I don't use hardly any processed foods and I use Celtic sea salt, purchased from the health food store. It is full of minerals and is actually good for you.

  9. A,
    I don't know all of the current advice and medical studies, such as they are. But one thing that I've noticed is that when I drink more water, my blood pressure goes DOWN. I don't know why this might be, but it makes a small difference for me (about 5 percent on both diastolic and systolic).

    I always do one trick to lower the salt content of food, specifically canned beans; I rinse them twice or three times in water and do not use the water from the beans to cook them. This seems to cut the salt in a can of beans nearly in half.


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