Tag Archives: sodium

How Much Sodium Does a Water Softener Add to Your Diet?

When you think of drinking a glass of water, you probably don’t worry about drinking a bunch of sodium. However, depending on where you live and your local water supply, you could be drinking saltier water than you have to. Many households use water softeners that contain sodium to get rid of hard water. Understanding how water softeners work and your options for softening your water will help you make the best decision for your home.

What Is the Difference Between Hard & Soft Water?

As water moves through pipes to reach your house, it can pick up minerals from the pipes and the ground. Depending on the amount of minerals in the water, chemists classify water as hard or soft. Hard water has lots of magnesium and calcium ions. Soft water has less magnesium and calcium ions but may have sodium or potassium ions instead. These ions in your water can affect everything from the water’s taste to how well your detergent works to build up in your plumbing.

The minerals in hard water can combine with detergent to produce a sticky scum that will end up anywhere you use soap. Hard water can also leave water stains on glasses washed in a dishwasher. Because of these issues, most people use water softeners to remove some of the minerals from hard water and have better-washed clothes and dishes. Soft water may feel more slippery and sometimes has a slightly salty taste.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners are systems that contain a resin through which your drinking water passes. As the water moves through the resin, the resin pulls the calcium and magnesium ions out and puts in either sodium or potassium ions instead. These sodium and potassium ions work better with your detergent to help remove dirt and oil, to the point that you can use less soap to get everything just as clean.

Water softeners typically treat your drinking water and not water used in irrigation. You need to backwash the resin in the water softener system to remove any dirt and make sure that the correct balance of sodium or potassium ions is present to remove the magnesium and calcium. Sometimes water softening systems need more salt added to recharge the resin with sodium ions.

How Much Sodium Is Added to the Water?

The amount of sodium added from a water softening system varies based on the manufacturer and specifications of the system. Untreated tap water already has a small amount of sodium in it. If you live in an area with very hard water, you will need to add more sodium to make your water soft. Typically water softening systems add between 10 to 40 milligrams of sodium per eight ounce glass of water. While this may not seem like a lot of sodium, it presents a source of sodium that most people don’t consider when they think of dietary sodium in their daily intake.

Why Should You Avoid Salt-Based Water Softener Systems?

If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you should avoid using salt-based water softener systems. These systems will introduce more sodium into your diet. Even if you are not concerned about the sodium, these systems use extra water during the backwashing phase. Salt-based water softener systems waste water because water is used to flush the system. Salt-based water softener systems are not environmentally friendly due the excess sodium pumped back into the sewer system.

There are options for non-sodium based water softeners to suit your needs. Saltless water softener systems do not use chemicals or salts of any kind. No added salt means that your water is not slippery or salty tasting. Because there is no salt, the salt-free water softener systems do not waste water or add sodium to the sewer system.

When dealing with hard water in your home, you have options to keep your plumbing free of buildup and your dishes and clothes as clean as possible without using excess detergent. Understanding the differences between the various water softening systems can direct you towards the system that will work best for your home. Which system would you prefer for your home?

What’s the Deal with Salt? New Report Suggests We’ve Been Worrying Too Much

nobodylistensWe have long been warned about the dangers of sodium, including the frightening risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But according to a new report commissioned by the Institute of Medicine under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these warnings may be misguided.

Moderation in all things is wise, but according to the expert panel, there is no need to limit sodium beyond about 2,300 milligrams a day. As reported by the New York Times, chairman of the committee Dr. Brian L. Strom confirmed, “As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms.” These “potential harms” include increased rate of heart attacks and risk of death – exactly counter to what was previously believed!

The average daily intake of sodium in America is roughly 3,400 milligrams, equivalent to about 1.5 teaspoons of salt. US dietary guidelines have traditionally encouraged people to aim for 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. To put that in perspective, if your day’s eating included two eggs for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, yogurt and an apple as a snack, salmon and rice for dinner, and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (and you haven’t added any salt, sauces, or toppings), you would have only consumed just under 800 milligrams of sodium. Once you start piling on fast food, condiments, processed snacks and the like, that number will easily spike up. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup has over 1,100 milligrams of sodium…So you can see our point.

If there’s no need to heavily limit sodium anyways, though, then what’s keeping us from an all-out salt binge? The first question on our minds was: are there any conflicts of interest in this report? If the organization sponsoring the panel were simultaneously receiving funding from Coke, say, or a fast food corporation, we would have cause to be skeptical. The Institute of Medicine, however, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, and their mission is to provide the most rigorous and unbiased health information possible.

Either way, this new information about sodium should not act as an open invitation to load your plate with table salt. If you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, then continue doing whatever you’re doing! If you’ve been stressing about sodium all your life, maybe relax a bit on that and focus more on eating wholesome food that fills and nourishes you. If you have eating habits you’d like to shake, then stay positive and set some realistic goals for yourself. At the end of the day, healthy eating is easier and a lot more fun than counting this or that.

What do you think of these findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Craving Salty Food? 3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sodium Intake

url-2As a child and teenager, I had a huge sweet tooth and craved sweets often.  As I started exercising, however, my sweet tooth turned savory.  And now, I like to fondly refer to myself as a “salt hound”…craving salty foods most of the time (except after dinner).  For the most part, I’m happy about this: Added sugar has tons of empty calories AND, too much added sugar in your diet is extremely bad for you.  Unfortunately, too much salt consumption is no good either.

Salt, also known as sodium, is essential to our health and well being when consumed in the right amount.  It is instrumental in:

  • Maintaining the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Transmitting nerve impulses
  • Influencing the contraction and relaxation of muscles

Too much sodium, however, can contribute to health problems – namely high blood pressure – which can lead to cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  As a result, it is best to keep consumption to no more than 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day for healthy adults.  The lower your sodium intake, the more beneficial it is to your blood pressure.

It is important to note that sodium is found in both table salt, and in processed and packaged foods.  Is a matter of fact, much of the salt we consume is found in pre-packaged foods.  So, it is best to watch your intake of both.  In order to lower or minimize consumption, follow these tips:

  1. Read Nutrition Labels: Salt comes in many forms and it is important to understand the different ways it can be listed on ingredient lists.  MSG, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, and sodium nitrate all represent sodium. Further, choose foods that tend to represent less than 15% of your total daily intake of sodium.
  2. Purchasing Foods: When possible, choose fresh, whole foods.  Whole foods do not contain any added salt or sodium.  If, however,  you do purchase foods that are canned, processed or packaged, always look for low-sodium or low-salt options. Also, try to cut out pre-mixed or prepared foods such as sauces, frozen pizzas, frozen dinners, frozen foods in general…as they all tend to be high in sodium.
    Here are some specifics:

    • Vegetables: When buying veggies, make sure to buy them fresh as much as possible.  If you do buy your vegetables frozen, make sure to check the ingredients for any sodium or salt.
    • Meats: Whenever possible, buy only fresh meat, fish or poultry. Processed and canned meats tend to have a lot of salt or sodium. Also, avoid cured and smoked meats.
    • Cold-Cuts: Cold-cuts are notorious for being high in sodium or salt.  If you purchase cold-cuts always opt for those varieties that are low in sodium.
    • Canned Soups: Buy and consume canned soups, broths or bouillon sparingly.  Try making your own.
    • Nuts: Avoid salted nuts and instead, opt for those that are unsalted.
    • Salad Dressings and Condiments: Many condiments and dressings are high in sodium.  Some of the worst offenders include soy sauce, teriyaki, barbecue and ketchup.As a result, try making your own or using those that are lower in sodium.
  3. Cooking:

Remember, you can retrain your taste buds.  Cutting out salt, little by little will allow you to get used to the flavor of having less salt and as a result, will help your body crave less salt.

Do you know how much salt and sodium you are getting in your diet?  Have you tried cutting back?

Originally published in 2010

Best Of The Week: Cutting Out Salt!

As a country, we are eating way too much salt, which makes us more predisposed for preventable long-term diseases and health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease Our daily requirement should not exceed 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about one teaspoon), which means we need to be extra vigilant about high amounts of sodium lurking in our favorite snacks, canned soups, salad dressings, condiments, and other processed foods.

This doesn’t mean we are doomed to bland food forever if we want to stay healthy. Check out the following blog posts from our Intent Voice bloggers, who offer smart advice on decreasing the salt while still enjoying flavorful food.

Craving Salt? Three Easy Ways To Reduce Sodium Consumption By Brett Blumenthal

Salt: What You Don’t Know Can Harm You, And What You Should Do Instead By Donna Gates

Stress Linked To Salt Consumption By Debbie Mandel

Eat The Good Salt! 4 Healthier Alternatives To Regular Table Salt By Renay Matthews

3 Healthy, Salty-Sweet Snack Solutions For Stress Eating By Linda LaRue

Eating Too Much Salt? 8 Healthier Alternatives To Your Favorite Saltiest Foods By Yumi Sakugawa

Don’t forget to check out our other past series on eating and living healthy! 

The Life Force Diet: The Key To Health And WellnessBy Michelle Schoffro-Cook

Intent 101: Getting Fit

Intent 101: Lead A Healthier Life

Intent 101: Losing Weight

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / danielygo /prakhar

Eating Too Much Salt? 8 Healthier Alternatives To Your Favorite Saltiest Foods

In addition to being a caffeine addict and a chocoholic, I can be a bit of a salty food junkie as well.

Which is why it was extremely sobering for me to learn that our daily sodium intake should not exceed 2,300 milligrams–which, by the way, is like one dinky little teaspoon’s worth of salt. Just eating about 30 pieces of salt and vinegar-flavored potato chips–my favorite salty indulgence–will already give you over a third of your recommended daily sodium intake.

As I also love having soy sauce with my sushi, I also finally learned today that just one tablespoon of shoyu will already give me a whopping 38% of my recommended daily sodium intake. By the way, I definitely use more than one tablespoon of shoyu to soak up my California rolls and salmon sashimi.

Here are 8 common salty foods–and 8 healthier alternatives that use way less salt, taste good and are much healthier for your long-term health. Pass the pepper shaker and garlic powder, please.

1. Potato chips. So good, yet so bad. According to the nutrition label of one of my favorite potato chips brand, one serving of potato chips is supposedly 13 chips and will give you only 16% of your daily sodium intake–and who in the world can actually stop eating after just 13 chips? If you are like most people, you will probably go through an entire bag in one sitting, giving you up to 50 or 60% of your daily sodium intake in just a few minutes.

Healthier alternative: Unsalted pretzels, unsalted nuts, unsalted popcorn. That, or bake your own kale chips.

2. Soy sauce. This fermented soy bean sauce is a common staple of Eastern cuisine and is so delicious when you love Asian food. But using just two tablespoons of soy sauce will already use up 80% of your daily sodium limit. 

Healthier alternative: Many soy sauce brands have a low-sodium equivalent of the original flavor. Using one tablespoon of the low-sodium version will only use up 24% of your daily sodium intake, as opposed to a whopping 40%. 

3. Canned soups. One of my favorite canned soups, Campbell’s Brocolli Cheese Soup, packs in 790mg in just 1/2 cup. If you are like most people, you probably eat at least 1 cup’s worth of soup or more, which already packs in over 60% of your daily sodium limit.

Healthier alternative: Make your own miso soup with miso paste, which requires not time at all. One bowl will only put you in the 30% range (721 mg) of your daily sodium limit. Or make your own zesty and healthy black-bean soup.

4. Salad dressing. No wonder salad dressing in a bottle tastes so freaking good; they’re packed with lots of sodium and fat. Store-bought Italian salad dressing can already give you 20% of your daily sodium limit in just two tablespoons. If you’re going to eat some fresh vegetables, don’t ruin it with super-fatty and salty dressing. 

Healthier alternative: Dress up your salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and lemon juice, with a teeny-tiny dash of sea salt. Or check out a great list of light salad dressing recipes here

5. Bottled condiments and sauces. Don’t be fooled by the tiny servings; 4 McDonalds Ketchup packets will already give you 20% of your daily sodium limit. 2 packets of McDonalds barbeque sauce will also do the same. 2 tablespoons of Kraft Teriyaki Sesame Ginger Barbeque Sauce will put you in at the 25% range. 

Healthier alternative: Look out for low-sodium version of ketchup (and extra bonus if they don’t have any high fructose corn syrup.) You can also use hot sauce, honey, and homemade salsa. 

6. Frozen dinner food. There’s a reason why frozen dinner foods are not recommended by nutritionists and dieticians: just one serving of Marie Callendar’s Frozen Chicken Pot Pie (which I used to eat on a disgustingly weekly basis during college) already packs in 34% of your daily sodium limit. Oops. 

Healthier alternative: Provided that you aren’t using sticks of butter and jars of lard for your homemade recipes, pretty much anything you whip up on your own will probably be ten times healthier than frozen dinner food you buy at the supermarket. Check out quick and healthy dinner recipe ideas here. 

7. Salted nuts and pretzels. These munchies are dangerous: 10 salted pretzels can already add up to 34% of your daily sodium intake. 

Healthier alternative: Buy the unsalted version of pretzels and nuts. You’ll still get your munchie on, and it’ll be a lot healthier, too.

8. Processed cheese. Be careful if you love making grilled cheese sandwiches for a quick lunch. Two Kraft cheese slices will already give you 20% of your daily sodium intake.

Healthier alternative: Some healthier options for dressing your sandwich: hummus, Vegenaise, olive oil, and you can never go wrong with more vegetables!

 PHOTO (cc): Flickr / slugicide / monkeyc

Salt: What You Don’t Know Can Harm You – and What You Should Do Instead

Do you usually reach for the salt shaker at the dinner table? Do you find that you crave salty snacks but are afraid of high blood pressure?

Your salt craving could mean you need minerals, but regular table salt isn’t the answer.

Flavorful Poison

Regular table salt, or iodized salt, is highly refined and has additives like sugar, chemicals, and preservatives. Many of the preservatives are not required to be listed on the container and include ferrocyanide, magnesium carbonate, and aluminum hydroxide.

These extra ingredients improve the pour-ability of standard salt, but they are not necessarily meant for human consumption. In fact, high levels of aluminum are believed to be a major factor in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s in the U.S.

Standard salt undergoes a refining process that strips it of 60 trace minerals, leaving a nutrient-free flavoring. Manufacturers put this refined salt into almost every prepared food, and it’s even present in municipal water sources.

Even though it may not be the cause of high blood pressure, consume refined salt at your own risk!

Real Sodium and Real Minerals

By contrast, natural sea salt is taken from the ocean where it forms in concentrated amounts, with no added chemicals, preservatives or sugar. It contains not only necessary sodium, but plenty of minerals your body needs for each and every cell.

(Keep in mind that natural sea salt does not have high levels of iodine, necessary for thyroid function. However, the Body Ecology program emphasizes ocean vegetables, which help meet your iodine requirement without having to resort to table salt.)

The Need for Salt

Salt cravings reveal our very real need for this natural, unrefined sodium and the minerals it provides- they are necessary for health and for life.

Craving salt is a sign that your adrenals, the small glands above your kidneys that regulate sleep, hormones and your body’s response to stress, need some TLC.

Feed your adrenals with plenty of vitamins and minerals from fermented foods and drinks, leafy green vegetables, ocean vegetables, green drinks, and small amounts of sea salt.

How Much Is Too Much?

If you like to drink a cold, sweet soda with your salty popcorn at the movies, you’ve experienced first hand how salt, which is contractive, makes you crave expansive sweets. So if you crave sweets, it could be a sign that you consume too much salt.

Also, some people are very sensitive to sodium, while others (especially endurance athletes) need more salt to function. In general, men need more than women, and children need the least of all.

Especially for women, pay attention to salt intake as you follow your monthly menstrual cycle. Cut way back on salt after ovulation so that your body will naturally become more expansive. It will then relax so that the lining of the uterus will be easily cleansed away as nature intended each month. If you eat too much salt during your period, it will inhibit the release of the lining that must be shed and you will not have a complete cleansing as nature intends.

After the lining is shed, you can then increase your use of sea salt a bit to bring on a smooth ovulation. The salt helps your ovaries contract to release the egg.

Experts recommend between 1600 mg and 2400 mg of sodium per day for adults, as a general guideline (1 teaspoon of salt provides about 2000 mg of sodium). But at Body Ecology we say to follow your own intuition and cravings as long as you use only high-quality, mineral-rich sea salt to satisfy your salt needs. Listen to your body, and you’ll take in the amount you need as your body seeks balance.

While too much of anything can cause health problems, follow the Body Ecology Principle of Balance when it comes to your sea salt intake.

Choose Sea Salt

Less than 1% of the world’s salt harvest has the artisinal quality of Celtic Sea Salt®. Celtic Sea Salt provides a unique array of bioavailable trace elements that exist in a perfectly balanced matrix.

How much salt you choose is just as important as what kind you choose.

Sea salt is certainly a much healthier alternative to standard table salt and can actually improve your health.

We recommend Celtic Sea Salt®, and it is widely regarded as one of the healthiest sea salts available. Using natural cultivation methods passed down from generations, salt farmers stir the ocean water until crystals form. Once harvested, Celtic Sea Salt® is moist, pure, biologically active and completely free from chemicals.

By listening to your body and choosing to use only a very high quality sea salt, you’ll enjoy the health rewards of sodium and minerals AND your taste buds will thank you!

Sources:

Gittleman, ND, M.S., Ann Louise, Understanding Salt and Sodium, AskWaltStollMD.com, 28 August, 2004. http://askwaltstollmd.com/archives/salt/290243.html

The Grain and Salt Society, CelticSeaSalt.com

Hypertension: Junk Medicine Exposed, TheHealthierLife.co.uk, http://www.profoundliving.org/Salt_/Salt_III/salt_iii.htm

This Week’s Theme: Reducing Our Salt Intake

The overconsumption of salt is a big health issue. So big that earlier this year, the New York CIty Health Department is coordinating a nation-wide effort to reduce the amount of salt in packaged food and restaurant as a way to decrease the number of preventable stroke and heart-related diseases in this country. While it is encouraging that public health officials are making a big campaign to reduce salt, there is still so much all of us can do on an individual level to reduce the our own personal salt consumption on a day-to-day basis.

This week’s theme on Intent.com is reducing salt from our diet. How can we cut out salt from our diet? What are the healthy long-term benefits of eating less salt? What are some baby steps we can take to reduce our dependence on salty food and learn to enjoy the taste of food in its natural form? 

A number of healthier alternatives are available for flavoring your food if you want to add some kick to your taste palette:

– Garlic powder

– Lemon juice

– Black pepper

– Different spices and herbs (curry, tumeric, etc.) 

– Hot sauce

– Olive oil

– Homemade salad dressings

We would love to hear your personal ideas for decreasing salt from your diet. Here’s to a healthier you for the rest of 2010.

Join Intent’s mission this week to inspire others with tips, tricks, recipes and ideas to reduce salt consumption in our daily diet. We will be featuring the best weekly content at the end of the week. If you simply want to share a quick idea in the comments below, we would love to hear that as well! 

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / pagedooley

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