In the last part of the series I explained the sweet effects of sugar. The second part of the series weighs two other highly consumed ingredients. Follow the guidelines and you’ll have your body working for you instead of against you. Reading the food labels will help with this part. If you never understood the label on the sides and backs of packages, the American Heart Association can help you out: Reading Food Nutrition Labels.
Fats – According to the American Heart Association, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. Fats, along with cholesterol, are the key factors for clogging up the body’s arteries. Yet, we love them so much that we have to have them in every meal. Now don’t get me wrong, there are benefits from the healthy fats that raise your high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and we do want to continue consuming recommended doses of that fat. The problem American’s are facing currently is the amount of saturated and transfats in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends anyone over the age of two to limit their saturated fats to less than 7% of their total daily calories, and limit their trans-saturated fats to less than 1% of daily total caloric intake. The CDC reported in 2007-2008 that Americans (males and females) were consuming 11% of saturated fats. In recent years, the media and FDA have helped reduce the amount of trans-saturated fat found within products by exposing the health risks associated with this fat and requiring companies to show the amount on their nutrition labels. Kudos to them, but the FDA can still be better at regulating what companies print and “claim” on their packages. “Low fat” doesn’t always mean that the fat content is lower than everything else. For a good idea of how many calories are made up from fats, multiply 9 by the number of fat grams (1 gram of fat = 9 kcal). Then subtract that from the total calories in the food to see how much fat you’re actually consuming.
Salt- Sodium has a number of functions in our body. It is an electrolyte that exchanges with potassium within our cells to maintain fluid balance, blood pressure, and acid-based balance. Our muscles also need sodium to contract and move. Lastly, sodium assists in the absorption of certain nutrients such as glucose. While our bodies need salt to maintain homeostasis, we tend to consume larger quantities than we actually need. According to the Institute of Medicine, the Adequate Intake (AI) for the majority of Americans is 1,500 mg of sodium per day. One should not exceed 2,300 mg/day. Yet, the CDC has reported that the average American consumes roughly 3,436 mg/day. That’s twice as much as the AI! I understand that we have evolved from our Neanderthal ancestors, but really, have we evolved so much that we can no longer tolerate bland foods? Let’s just toss out the main purpose for eating in the first place. Our primary focus now is to make sure that whatever we consume tastes delectable. To accomplish this, throw a dash (or a heaping) of salt on it. I know people who will reach for the salt shaker even before tasting the food and make it snow on their food like a blizzard came through. Too much sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure. This in turn leads to, you guessed it, heart disease! Help yourself out by drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your fluid balance in check. Then switch over to some lower sodium foods. Even though the front of the package says “low sodium,” read the nutrition label and make sure it’s not going to put your salt levels through the roof at the end of the day.