Archive for Monday, October 27, 2008

Doctors wish Americans would shake salt habit

Carol Gilmore, a registered dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, watches her sodium intake and urges others to do the same. Most people consume more than the recommended one teaspoon of salt per day.

Carol Gilmore, a registered dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, watches her sodium intake and urges others to do the same. Most people consume more than the recommended one teaspoon of salt per day.

October 27, 2008


Doctors wish Americans would shake salt habit

Salt is an important part of a balanced diet - but doctors say eating too much can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects one out of every three adults. 6News reporter Karrey Britt takes a look at the issue and how you can cut back on the sodium. Enlarge video

Tips to lower your sodium intake

Dietitian Carol Gilmore describes how to add flavor while lowering sodium intake.

Health professionals advise all Americans to watch their intake of calories, fats, carbohydrates and sodium.

Often, it's the last one that's hardest to do.


First, it's in about everything we eat, especially convenience foods for today's fast-paced lifestyles. According to the American Heart Association, 75 percent of our sodium comes from processed foods such as soups, canned foods and prepared mixes.

Second, it tastes good.

Dr. Roger Dreiling, of Cardiovascular Consultants in Lawrence, said his rule of medicine is "if it tastes good or if it feels good, it's bad for you."

On a more serious note, he said that we are born without a taste for salt, but become acclimated to it as we grow up.

The average American consumes between 6,000 and 18,000 milligrams of salt daily. The body only needs about 200 milligrams. The American Heart Association's recommendation is a daily consumption of less than 2,300 milligrams, or one teaspoon.

Dreiling advises people to follow such recommendations because later in life they will be less likely to develop hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, which leads to heart disease and stroke.

Hypertension, which is a blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg, affects one out of every three adults. A Kansas Department of Health and Environment survey found about 557,000 Kansans, or 27 percent, were diagnosed with hypertension in 2007.

"Americans are eating too much salt," Dreiling said. "I see a lot of patients who should be on a low-sodium diet."

They just aren't following his advice. Unfortunately, he said many Americans would rather take a pill than alter their diet.

"You know, substituting medicine so you can eat what you want is not going to work," Dreiling said.

But he admits a low-sodium diet isn't easy. The food tends to taste like cardboard in the beginning. Also, many of his patients have grown children who have left home, so they are just cooking for one or two. That means they typically eat soup and a sandwich for lunch, which might seem healthy but both can be chock-full of sodium.

"So, cooking a low-salt lunch is darn near impossible for one person or two people," Dreiling said. "Salt is ubiquitous. It's everywhere."

Label reading

Mattie Neely, 56, of Lawrence, knows that all too well. She was diagnosed with high blood pressure about 10 years ago. Since then, she has limited her salt intake as much as possible.

Neely said at first, she headed to the canned goods section in the grocery because it was cheaper and easier to make a meal. She had to change that.

"It was very difficult because every time you go grocery shopping you have to look at and read a lot of the labels to see how much sodium is in each thing you buy."

She's also altered her cooking at home.

"We use a lot of chicken and a lot of (salt substitute Mrs.) Dash and black pepper. I cook with a lot of onions and garlic and things like that to give it flavor," Neely said.

She's also not afraid to ask about low-sodium foods at restaurants. She typically goes to Jade Mongolian Barbeque, 1511 W. 23rd St., where she can pick her meat, vegetables and, more importantly, sauce, and then the chefs cook it in front of her.

"Not having the salt makes a big difference," she said. "I have to give up a lot of different things like macaroni and cheese, but it's worth it."

She said her taste buds have changed as well. Sometimes when she tries a bite of someone else's food, Neely will think it's extremely salty, but her friend won't notice it.

"I can sense that salt in there, but it doesn't bother the next person," she said.

Acquiring a new taste

Carol Gilmore, Lawrence Memorial Hospital's assistant director of Food and Nutrition Services, said it only takes six to eight weeks for people to adjust to a lower level of sodium.

"You can unlearn your preference for salt, but you have to give yourself an opportunity to do that," she said.

Her recommendation on how to get there: Don't go cold turkey. Start by cutting back on table salt and then slowly ramp it down by purchasing lower sodium items. Once there, start eliminating high sodium foods such as sauerkraut and deli meats.

She suggests eating more fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables and whole grains.

"Sometimes, it doesn't take a lot of change for some individuals to see a significant benefit," Gilmore said.

Gilmore, who has been a dietitian for about 30 years, said adults spend a lot of time on other activities, but when it comes to food shopping, they tend to skimp.

"We need to kind of make the grocery store a little bit of a hobby and do some label reading and just see what's available," she said. "Education is power and helps you make better food choices and better decisions."

For example, during a recent grocery shopping excursion she pointed out two types of spaghetti sauces. The first one had the American Heart Association's "heart healthy" label on the front and the second one didn't have any special label. But according to the nutrition labels on the back of the jars, the second one had about half of the sodium, while the calories and fat content were nearly the same.

To be labeled "heart healthy," an individual food cannot exceed 480 milligrams of sodium per serving and a meal-type product can't exceed 600 mg.

Another example was found in the cereal aisle. While the boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats had no "heart healthy label" like the boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats next to them, they had significantly less sodium. For a 59-gram serving, they had 5 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of fat and 200 calories. The honey roasted cereal had 120 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 150 milligrams of sodium for a 30-gram serving.

"So, you have to be label smart because as you can see you've got options if you take the time to look," she said.

Also, don't be afraid to ask grocery workers for help. The butchers can point out items that have less salt. For an 8-ounce serving of pork, you can buy one with 120 milligrams over their counter for $2.50 compared with a packaged one with 660 milligrams of sodium for $2.09.

More offerings

Gilmore, who considers grocery shopping a hobby, said food manufacturers are beginning to offer more products for those watching their salt intake. She has noticed even more options in the past month.

"They've really gotten on the bandwagon," she said.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is glad she has noticed.

Scott Openshaw, director of communications for the association, said the food industry is working collaboratively with many stakeholders including the government to help consumers achieve dietary guideline recommendations including that for sodium.

He said many no-salt-added, lightly salted, low sodium and sodium-free products have been introduced into the market.

"Food companies have been very successful at making incremental reductions in salt levels in popular products gradually over time, silently, while continuing to meet consumer taste preferences," Openshaw said.

Of course, some can be tough to swallow.

"I've tried the salt-free bread," Neely said, laughing, "and I just can't seem to do that one."


flux 9 years, 8 months ago

Next year Salt will be good for you

flux 9 years, 8 months ago

My god Pywacket, arent you special. Do you want a freekin cookie?

jonas_opines 9 years, 8 months ago

"the Doctors need to get a clue."? The doctors do? Something tells me that if you asked the doctors if Americans need to shake their booze habits, they would say that its more important than salt.

nobody1793 9 years, 8 months ago

"Doctors wish people would shake the salt habit, the fact is that booze kills more people than salt does, the Doctors need to get a clue."I never put salt on a margarita glass...

Janet Lowther 9 years, 8 months ago

Salt is essential to survival.The human body is hardwired to desire salt, from the long ages when salt was a rare commodity, and you probably needed all the salt you could get. So we like salt, just like dogs and cows and horses.Unfortunately, with the coming of industrial salt mining, salt has became abundant, but our bodies can't change aeons of programming in just a few generations, so we still desire, even crave salt.

mmiller 9 years, 8 months ago

1 freakin' teaspoon a day???!! How is that possible? Our food is loaded with so much salt!!!

gr 9 years, 8 months ago

It may be bad, it may be good. Maybe it's the enormous amounts. Something that is bad is the sugar. Has anyone looked at the candy make that the cereal boxes? Some have sugar as the first ingredient. Looking at the amounts, sugar is more than 50% of the contents.Perhaps more of an uproar should be about sugar rather than salt? And as suggested in the article, you have the dilemma of choosing between excess salt or excess sugar or excess fat - or all three at once!

fourkitties 9 years, 8 months ago

when you work in a place (especially in the summer) where you sweat all day, for 5-6 days a week and your drinking Gatorade to help replenish the electrolytes/sugars/salts etc....and even taking a supplement, but your still craving salt like its gone off the face of the earth...... what do you do then?My husband comes home from work at a state prison and his shirt is lined with salted sweat lines. Every single day of the summer.

bevy 9 years, 8 months ago

Here's one you might not have noticed - but I, with my high blood pressure (genetic, I might add, not related to my salt intake): Low Fat items are LOADED with salt! I picked up a package of Baked Lays the other day. I couldn't eat them - too salty. I compared the sodium level to a package of regular chips and was surprised how much higher the sodium level was. I guess you have to get your flavor somewhere.So, how's a gal to avoid salt and fat? I do it by making my own fresh foods. My hubby -- a confirmed junk food junkie -- has even started making his own popcorn rather than using the microwave kind. You can control what goes into it - especially the type of fat and the sodium level. Now if I could just get him to quit putting butter on it...Fresh is best! Use plenty of herbs and spices and you won't miss the sodium. I make my own spaghetti sauce - even using canned tomatoes it is much less salt than the store bought kind. Way tastier, too!

flux 9 years, 8 months ago

Yes, Penzey's spices are the best. I reccomend the Fox Point or the Northwood fire

countrygirl 9 years, 8 months ago

I don't use much salt anymore, but I haven't been able to give up salt on my baked potatoes or fries (baked fries). I switched over to sea salt though. It's much sharper than table salt so a small sprinkle gives you good flavor with less sodium. More good spices help too. Check out Penzey's spices--they have a store in Overland Park and a web site. Their spices are very fresh and may using less salt in cooking much easier.

Connacht 9 years, 8 months ago

Actually, flux, it was your spelling that was corrected, not your grammar. If someone was going to correct your grammar, they might, for example, tell you not to end your sentences with a preposition as for example the word "with" in the sentence:"I bet you're a ton of fun to hang out with."

John Hamm 9 years, 8 months ago

Dr. Roger Dreiling, of Cardiovascular Consultants in Lawrence, said his rule of medicine is "if it tastes good or if it feels good, it's bad for you."Yea, part of the St. Luke's crowd that ran all the good cardiologists out of town.

jonas_opines 9 years, 8 months ago

flux (Anonymous) says:"and you're a grammer snob:..ewww. I bet you're a ton of fun to hang out with."She's sure as hell more fun than you. Why are you surprised that your open hostility was met with a sarcastic rejoinder? You seem anxious and disgruntled. Maybe you should cut down on your salt consumption.

notajayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Connacht (Anonymous) says: "If someone was going to correct your grammar, they might, for example, tell you not to end your sentences with a preposition..."A young man from Arkansas is on the KU campus for the first day of classes. He asks a passerby "Excuse me, can you tell me where the library is at?" The fellow student, nose held appropriately high, disdainfully says "Around here we don't end sentences with prepositions."The first young man says "Oh, I'm sorry. Can you tell me where the library is at - a___ole?"*****Don't worry, all, when the Messiah institutes nationalized healthcare, salt (or anything else unhealthy) will be criminalized.

flux 9 years, 8 months ago

and you're a grammer snob.....ewww. I bet you're a ton of fun to hang out with.

notajayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Py;Off subject? Connacht made a post about grammar, specifically ending sentences with prepositions. I told an old joke related to that very thing. I was hardly defending anyone for anything. Someone sounds irritated that she didn't get her cookie. Apparently low sodium causes one to have a sense-of-humor deficiency - I'd start back on those processed foods if I was you.

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