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Sodium: What You Need To Know

Reading food labels: Checking for sodium

Sodium is an electrolyte (containing an electrical charge) which attracts water on a chemical level, causing your body to build up fluids, thus increasing your body mass and effect your body weight. Studies have also been shown in animal cells that a high sodium diet is linked to larger fat cells. Sodium can also make you very thirsty which some people mistake for hunger or drink calorie filled drink. Salt also enhances the taste of food which can lead to overeating. Potassium aids the body in flushing out excess sodium.

To assess a food's sodium level, check the back and sides as well as the front of the package or container. The label may offer a clue (see below for a translation of what the terms mean). But the actual amount is listed in the Nutrition Facts panel found on the product's back or side.

IF THE LABEL SAYS _____ IT MEANS: Sodium-free or salt-free Less than 5 mg sodium per serving Very low sodium Less than 35 mg sodium per serving Low sodium Less than 140 mg sodium per serving Light in sodium At least 50% less sodium than original product Reduced sodium At least 25% less sodium than original product

Here are the top 10 types of food that account for more than 40% of the sodium we eat each day, along with some ideas for simple swaps to trim your salt intake.

1. Breads and rolls. As noted above, this category tops the list not because bread is especially salty (a slice contains about 100 to 200 mg of sodium) but because we eat so much of it. Smart swaps: Instead of toast or a bagel for breakfast, have a bowl of oatmeal prepared with just a pinch of salt. Bypass the dinner breadbasket for a serving of whole grains, such as barley, brown rice, farro, or quinoa.

2. Pizza. All the essential pizza ingredients — the crust, sauce, and cheese — contain a lot of salt. Adding cured meats such as pepperoni or sausage adds even more sodium. Smart swap: Make a homemade pizza using a whole-wheat, prebaked pizza crust with low-sodium pizza sauce and slivers of part-skim mozzarella or other light cheese (see no. 9 for other suggestions). Top with sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, or any other vegetables you like. Bake at 450° F until the cheese melts.

3. Sandwiches. Like pizza, most sandwiches contain salty ingredients (bread, cheese, cold cuts, and cured meats; see no. 4). Smart swaps: Load up your sandwich with veggies such as tomato, avocado, and lettuce. Skip the cheese and add hummus. Or try natural peanut butter with sliced apple or banana.

4. Cold cuts and cured meats. These processed meats include bacon, ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs, and deli or luncheon meats. Not only are they high in sodium chloride (salt), they may also contain sodium nitrate as a preservative, which further boosts the sodium count.

Smart swaps: Cook your own fresh chicken or turkey breast to slice up for sandwiches, or buy low-sodium turkey or chicken breast.

5. Soups. Some varieties of canned soup have as much as 940 mg of sodium per serving. Smart swaps: Look for low-sodium and reduced-sodium varieties (see "Reading food labels"). Or make a large batch of homemade soup with noodles, low sodium chicken broth, meat and veggies, adding just enough salt to enhance the taste, and freeze it in individual serving containers for convenience.

6. Burritos and tacos. Like pizza, these popular Mexican dishes combine a number of high-salt ingredients, such as white-flour tortillas (an eight-inch one might contain about 400 mg of sodium), cheese, and seasoned, salty beans and meat. Smart swaps: Use whole-grain corn tortillas (just 5 mg of sodium each and low calorie) and fill with grilled chicken or a mild white fish. Choose low-sodium canned beans; if they're not available, rinsing regular ones removes about one-third of the sodium. Sauté beans with onion, garlic, and spices for added flavor. Top burritos and tacos with chopped vegetables and salsa.

7. Savory snacks. This includes chips, popcorn, jerky, pretzels, snack mixes, and crackers. Smart swap: Choose low- or reduced-sodium versions of these snack foods or buy unsalted ingredient and make your own trail mix with almonds, dark chocolate and edamame beans!

8. Chicken. This popular protein is often prepared in commercial kitchens, which means added salt. Rotisserie or fried chicken from a grocery store or restaurant contains up to four times the sodium of plain chicken prepared at home. Smart swap: Roasting an entire chicken takes a while, but you can bake or sauté plain chicken breasts seasoned with salt-free herb blends in far less time. I typically grill on medium or bake at 400 for my chicken.

9. Cheese. The amount of sodium in cheese varies widely, even among the same varieties, so check the labels carefully. Feta and blue cheese are among the saltiest varieties, while goat cheese, ricotta, and Neufchâtel (which is similar to cream cheese) tend to be far lower in sodium. Smart swaps: Try low-sodium cheddar cheese, or substitute small amounts of finely grated, savory hard cheeses such as Parmesan or Romano as a replacement for other cheeses.

10. Eggs and omelets. An egg contains only 62 mg of sodium, so this category again reflects other ingredients and cooking methods. For example, most fast-food egg breakfast sandwiches are made with cheese and ham on an English muffin, and omelets are also often full of cheese, bacon, and ham. Smart swaps: Make your own poached or soft-cooked eggs. Many grocery stores now carry hard-boiled eggs, which are even more convenient.

So watch out for these high sodium foods and try the swaps!

If you have too much sodium one weekend and need to detox, here are my recommendations:

-Detox tea (helps reduce water weight and constipation) cleansing and water weight loss)

-Training w/ sweatshirt on or add in 15 min in the sauna When you sweat, you breathe faster, your heart works more, your circulation improves and your metabolism accelerates, all in an effort to resume your normal body temperature. Because your circulation is increased during sweating, many of the toxins and impurities are able to exit your body by way of your open skin pores. This is a good reason to exercise to the point of sweating or to sit in a steam room regularly.

-Drinking 1 gallon water, Add lemon to water

-Take probiotic daily

-Consider colon cleanse treatment or supplement

-I also recommended: Hyrdo-Colon therapy -


I hope that gives you a good idea of how you can control sodium intake! Make sure to drink plenty of water on your high sodium days!

Remember: sodium and potassium are like opposites, so if you have too much sodium be sure to add in extra potassium (banana, sweet potato, leafy greens)


Leah Peters


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