Healthful Eating: Summer 2007 Lupus Now magazine
So Long, Salt by Sacha Cohen
Picnics, grilling, and barbecue. Ah, the beloved staples of summertime. Yet with these seasonal traditions come many salty foods. From the ketchup, pickles, and American cheese you pile on your charcoal-grilled burger to the sodium-laden dips and chips served on the side, it's easy to load up on salt during warm-weather months.
Should you be concerned? Unfortunately, yes.
High sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure and kidney disease (up to 40 percent of people with lupus will develop kidney problems). And when your kidneys aren't healthy, extra sodium and fluid build up in your body, which can cause swollen ankles, puffiness, a rise in blood pressure, shortness of breath, and/or fluid around your heart and lungs. By cutting back on sodium, you can improve kidney function and lower water retention brought on by some medications, including steroids, says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 11 percent of the sodium in the average U.S. diet comes from adding salt or other sodium-containing condiments to foods. But the majority of sodium -- 77 percent -- comes from eating prepared or processed foods.
"Watch out for fast food and restaurants in general. They add far more salt to their food than you would at home," warns Gerbstadt. Most physicians recommend that healthy adults eat 2,300 milligrams or less per day, which is about a teaspoon.
To reduce your sodium consumption, avoid:
- Processed and packaged food (canned soups, cheese, frozen meals, mixes)
- Fast food
- Snack foods (chips, pretzels, popcorn, cookies)
- Prepared salad dressing and sauces
- Pickles and olives
- Canned vegetables and soups
- Cured and smoked meats (bacon, hot dogs, cold cuts)
- Condiments such as ketchup and soy sauce (opt for readily available, lower-sodium varieties)
- Salted nuts and peanut butter (again, choose lower-salt versions)
Cutting back on salt doesn't mean you’ll have to sacrifice flavor or your favorite seasonal treats. Try experimenting with spices and herbs to invigorate your cooking. Ginger and garlic can do wonders for grilled chicken, seafood, and meat, while lemon, lime, and vinegar add tang and depth to salads and vegetable dishes.
"Try eating sweet corn without salt or salted butter," advises Gerbstadt. "You'll be amazed by the flavor."
This summer, stock up on:
- Fresh and dried herbs and spices such as basil, cumin, paprika, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme
- Fresh ginger and garlic (both go well with grilled chicken and fish)
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Lower-sodium ketchup and soy sauce
- No-salt-added beans and legumes
- Low-sodium, natural cheese
As you begin to wean yourself off salt, you'll not only be doing your body a favor, but you'll also expand your culinary horizons as well.
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