Health

Eating for Health

English: A close up of salt crystals.

A close up of salt crystals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Salt: How much is too much?

Salt has a bad reputation, many are aware that excessive salt intake can lead to the development of high blood pressure, but salt also plays a vital role in the physiology of our bodies. Sodium is so important to our bodies that we have a specific sensor on our tongues that can detect sodium. Salt is crucial for maintaining every cell in your system, it permeates the fluid between the cells, the extracellular fluid, while potassium exists inside the cells in the intracellular fluid. Sodium and potassium need to remain in dynamic balance so nutrients and waste can exchange across cell membranes. Without salt our bodies would cease to function properly.

So the human body needs salt, but how much? The average American’s salt intake is 2-3 teaspoons a day. While this may not sound like much, it provides 4,000-6,000 mg of sodium, double the FDA’s maximum RDA of 2,400 mg.  Salt is so prevalent in processed foods, getting salt out of your diet and controlling your intake isn’t as simple as passing up the salt shaker. Snacks like chips, crackers, and popcorn are obviously salted but so are foods like bread, cereal, and salad dressings. In order to really reduce your salt intake you have to read the labels of the foods you are eating. As a rule of thumb: focus on buying foods that have 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.

Refined salt, aka table salt, is two mineral salts, sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl) together with other chemicals like anti-caking agents, commonly, sodium aluminosilicate or alumino-calcium silicate. These anti-caking agents are sources of aluminum, a toxic metal that has been associated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Bleaches are often used in the refining process and more than 60 trace minerals and essential nutrients, except the sodium and chloride, are stripped out. None of these added chemicals work with our biochemistry and add additional problems with their use. When salt is isolated from its organic whole, excessive concentrations of sodium and chloride can cause mineral and fluid imbalances in the body and can lead to health problems like hypertension, and anemia. A low-salt or no salt diet can lead to accelerated aging, cellular degeneration, biochemical starvation, adrenal fatigue, heart attack (valves can tear and lacerate), and dehydration.

Reduce Salt Intake

Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Products that come in packages and cans are designed for long shelf-life and are the #1 source of salt in our diets. Additionally, these processed foods often contain sodium additives and preservatives, sugar, and hydrogenated fats, all of which are linked to common health problems. For your optimal health, your top priority should be removing these refined, processed, fake foods. Nature designed foods that are perfect for our bodies, low in sodium and filled with nutrients. Fresh plant foods and unprocessed animal foods fit this definition; all others do not. Therefore, choosing foods low in sodium is relatively easy: when in doubt, opt for the more natural choice, ideally organic.

Use unrefined sea salt instead of common table salt in your salt shaker. The kind of salt you use is just as important as the amount of salt you use. Common table salt is harmful; it does not dissolve in the body and tends to build up. Unrefined sea salt is “good” salt that the body can readily use for the many functions sodium is needed for in our bodies. Use only the amount of salt that is right for you. Sensitivity to salt, even the unrefined variety, is an individual response. Some can tolerate moderate amounts while others do better with very little. Always listen to your body.

Strive to eliminate or reduce the amount of salt used in cooking. Salt added during cooking accounts for 45% of the sodium we consume and is not tasted as well as salt added after cooking. Use natural salt at the table, but eliminate or reduce salt from your recipes. To add flavor to your recipes use salt-free seasonings like, garlic, herbs and spices. Use naturally salty, but still nutritious, foods like unprocessed cheese and tamari to add flavor while cooking. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day. Fresh fruits and veggies are high in potassium, which helps to counteract too much salt in the diet.

There is a lot of information about nutrition and what is the best way to eat, but the single best thing you can do to reduce your sodium intake and eat a more nutritious diet is to eliminate as many processed foods as possible. Foods closest to their natural state are most nutritious.

©Ellice Campbell 2013

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Parenting

Fight Childhood Obesity by Teaching Healthy Eating Behaviors

Obesity Campaign Poster

Obesity Campaign Poster (Photo credit: Pressbound)

 

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity is the result of too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed, and can be affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Additionally, children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Obesity increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

 

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings,  faith-based institutions,  the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries. Regardless of age, everyone needs the same nutrients, just in varying amounts. The responsibility to teach children how to make healthy food choices largely falls on the parents, and as any parent can attest, this proves a daunting task.

 

Healthy Eating for Toddlers & Preschoolers

 

After the first year of life, children’s growth slows and they require less food. When planning portions for this age group a good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of food for every year of age. It is better to serve a small amount of food and allow them to ask for more than to overwhelm them with a large initial portion. Children thrive on routine and will do best when following a regular eating schedule.  It is always best when children learn to eat what the rest of the family is eating instead of being provided with a special meal, keep in mind however when new foods are introduced, it may take up to 10 times of the food being introduced and tasted for the new item to be accepted. With this in mind, children may be more accepting of new foods when they are introduced with a familiar favorite, so include food that you know the child will eat at each meal. Children are less likely to accept foods that were introduced during a negative meal situation, so making meal time an enjoyable family affair reinforces positive eating behaviors. Parental modeling may be the most influential factor when children are learning what to eat, so be sure you are practicing the good eating behaviors you would like your children to adopt.  Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is imperative in establishing healthy eating patterns for life and involving young children in planting and growing vegetables is an excellent way to draw the child’s interest healthy eating. This period of growth is a wonderful time to begin to establish physical activity habits. Physical fitness established at an early age can lower the risk that the child will become overweight or obese.

 

Obesity Campaign Poster

 

6-12 Years of Age

 

This stage is often referred to as the “latent time of growth” because the rate of growth slows and changes occur more gradually. This is also the period when inappropriate concepts of body image may take root, leading to chronic dieting or eating disorders. While energy needs may decline slightly, the quality of the diet is imperative to provide the necessary nutrition essential to school performance and physical demands and should focus on real, whole foods and limiting the amount of refined and processed foods. The school and home environments should be conducive to assisting these children in making appropriate food and activity choices.

 

Adolescents

 

The growth experienced during this can vary from child to child and metabolic rate as well as food needs will vary.  The quantity as well as the quality of the food choices is also important during this period of rapid growth. Adequate supplies of iron, zinc, calcium and essential vitamins are important to fuel the changes in body size and development.  Despite the critical nutritional needs during this stage, dietary surveys indicate that of all different age groups, adolescents have the poorest diets. It is important to stress to teens that healthy eating behaviors along with consistent physical activity can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, provide energy to meet the demands of school and work, and will increase the overall sense of well-being.

 

©Ellice Campbell 2013

 

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Weight-Loss

Dieting vs. Healthy Eating

Fresh vegetables are important components of a...

Fresh vegetables are important components of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Losing weight or getting in shape is always a favorite for those making New Year’s resolutions. Focusing on healthy habits has many benefits including increased confidence, abundant energy, and improved health, so why is it so hard to see your health and wellness goals past resolution season?
Many who set out to lose weight embark on a diet, this is the first mistake if lasting weight loss is the ultimate goal. Diets, by nature, are temporary and produce the mindset of deprivation. One becomes so focused on the foods that are no longer permitted and suddenly the well-intentioned diet now seems like punishment. Instead of dieting and focusing on foods that are off-limits, focus on incorporating more healthy eating strategies, and after time healthy eating becomes a lifestyle, and not a punishment. That is not to say that achieving your weight-loss goals will not be challenging, change is always challenging, but when you are realistic about where you are currently and where you would like to be, real change is attainable.
To begin, set SMART (S-specific, M-measurable, A-attainable, R-rewarding, T-timely) weight-loss goals. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day to lose the recommended average of 1 to 2 pounds per week.  If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to learn better eating habits that you can maintain for a lifetime.
Healthy Eating Strategies

  • Read nutritional labels– Educate yourself on what you are eating, there are many surprising things allowed in our food supply, find out what you’re ingesting. For example, Purdue researchers found that Olean, used in some brands of light and fat-free potato chips, can trigger GI side effects in portions of the population, but also can make you gain weight. The study found, rats fed potato chips containing Olean as part of a high-fat diet, ate more overall and gained more weight than those who were fed a high fat diet and consumed regular, full-fat potato chips. Why? Fake fats and chemicals screw with our body’s ability to digest and metabolize food, making us more likely to retain weight from what we eat rather than burn off the calories. To learn more about nutritional labels, please visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/NFLPM/ucm274593.htm
  • Don’t eat “diet food”– According to www.slim-fast.com, the fourth ingredient in slim-fast shakes is Canola oil, additional ingredients include, fructose, Hydrogenated soybean oil, and High Fructose Corn Syrup. A healthy diet should not include any of these ingredients regularly, especially when weight-loss is the goal.
  • Switch to whole grains– Scientists at the University of Copenhagen found in a randomized clinical trial, participants eating a diet with whole grains verses refined ones, lost more weight and saw a more significant decrease in body fat compared to those eating refined grains exclusively.
  • Cut out the sweetened beverages– Too much sugar is not good for you, adding calories without nutrition, but studies have proven that artificial sweeteners make you gain more weight than consuming regular sugar, indicating that when your body gets a hit of sweet taste without the calories to go with it, it adversely affects your appetite control mechanisms, causing increased food cravings.  If you can’t give up sweetened beverages completely, reduce your daily intake as much as possible, a 12 ounce soda can have 100-180 calories per can so reducing your soda intake also reduces your calorie intake significantly.
  • Get at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetablesWeight loss is not the only benefit of eating more fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and other chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health. Aim for 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily and 2 cups of fruit.
  • Eat a variety of foods from all the major food groups– Visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate/index.aspx to get a personalized Daily Food Plan.
  • Keep a food journal- Research has found those that keep a food journal lose almost double the weight of those who don’t, and are more successful in keeping it off.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid, from the Harvard S...

The Healthy Eating Pyramid, from the Harvard School of Public Health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The USDA also offers the SuperTracker, a free website, which can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity. You can look up individual foods to see or compare their nutritional value, find recommendations for what and how much you should eat, compare your food choices to these recommendations and to your nutrient needs, and access personal physical activities and identify ways to improve. Find recommendations for what and how much you should eat. For more information, visit https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/

©Ellice Campbell 2013

 

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