Pay attention to sodium, not just calories
Published: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 15:03
Health-conscious students may count calories, carbs, fats and sugar intake, but a more silent health culprit is also worth paying attention to.
According to MSNBC's coverage of the Young Adult Health Risk Screening Initiative conducted by the University of New Hampshire, "most students, 95 percent of men and 70 percent of women, consumed too much sodium." Suggested sodium intake is about 2,300 milligrams per day.
Excessive sodium intake can cause hypertension, kidney disease and even heart problems. According to a study published by the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 1983, the average college male consumes about 3,904 milligrams of sodium daily and college females consume about 2, 628 milligrams of sodium. However, sodium intake has most likely increased in the past years due to increased food processing, so these values are probably higher.
Many students are not fully aware of how much sodium should be consumed daily. Out of 18 NDSU students asked if they could correctly identify what amount of salt gave 100 percent of daily sodium requirements, only eight students answered correctly. One teaspoon of salt contains approximately 100 percent of all sodium you would need in one day.
If you buy those quick microwave meals, do yourself a favor and sneak a peek at the sodium content. Very likely, it will be somewhere between 25 percent to up to 50 percent of sodium content—all in just one meal. For example, Banquet's Turkey Meal looks like a decent, wholesome lunch with mashed potatoes, green peas and turkey. A quick look at the nutritional information shows that in one meal, you will consume 230 calories, 20 percent daily value of dietary fiber and 18 percent daily value of protein. Although the meal is a great source of protein, it is also an excellent source of sodium: 40 percent of your necessary daily intake of sodium.
Forgetting that salt is most likely already included in your meal can be easy, particularly if you did not prepare the food yourself. With just a pinch of salt here and a dash of salt there, your sodium intake can really add up. Avoid adding extra salt at restaurants. Rest assured, your food has most likely already been smothered in salt so the extra pinch will only add sodium, rather than extra tastiness to your meal.
When looking to include flavor to your food, opt for herbs and spices. Salt is not the only way to make a dish tasty. Squeezing lemon juice on your food, for example, adds a nice tang. Herbs, such as dried rosemary and thyme, can be added to "plain" foods that are typically loaded with salt. Ginger has a strong flavor that makes it perfect for stir-fries. Visiting the herb isle at the grocery store will introduce you to unique flavors you may have never tasted before.
No need to avoid salt altogether, but at the same time, consuming a salt mine each day can damage your long-term health. Next time you go grocery shopping, pay attention to the sodium content, not just the calories and fat.