Salt & Sodium

Sodium, better known as Salt, is an essential mineral to the human body.  Its the only mineral the body does not produce, so we need it from food sources.  The good and bad news is, we get tons of it from foods we eat, especially if we get it from fast food, takeout, frozen foods, Chinese, just about anything.  The biggest source of sodium?  Bread.  As much as 44% of our sodium comes from bread.  A slice of toast in the morning, a pat of salted butter, a sandwich with 2 slices of bread and you are done with your recommended sodium intake.  But of course we go home and have some bread with supper, especially if we have Italian roots, add in some well salted water the pasta is boiling in and/or if you have salt on the table, in the salad, or you use canned foods which are packed in an ingredient that contains sodium.  Needless to say that if we order a large pepperoni pizza, we have probably gotten enough sodium for a week between the bread, cheese, pepperoni and whatever other salt is in the sauce.  Pizza isn’t unhealthy, when we have a slice or two, its when we have half a pie in one sitting.

Sodium as we know, can lead to heart disease and diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.  The only good thing is that we MIGHT drink more water.  Water is also essential to the body since our bodies are at least 75% water.

So, let’s talk about salt again.  Salt is good, and it can be bad.  Table salt is 10x saltier than  regular salt.  In addition it contains iodine because once upon a time doctors and/or nutritionists thought that we were not getting enough iodine in their meals.  Iodine makes salt taste different, and the fact is, we need iodine just as much as salt.  It helps control our thyroid, heart rate, blood sugar levels, maintain weight, controls cholesterol, body temperature, keeps skin and nails healthy, the list goes on, and of course the all leads to how we feel physically in general.  If we don’t get enough of it, we feel lousy.

One of the most common medications is Sinthroid or Levoxyl, which help regulate and enable us to have a healthy thyroid.  It is estimated 1 in 5 need this medication due to an inadequate diet.  Again, this regulates so many other parts of the body like energy, heart rate, cholesterol, weight, etc etc. So how do you get this iodine supplement without a prescription?  Well, you have to eat more fish, and, you have to eat it at least 2-3 times per week.

The average daily intake of iodine should be 150mcg, ironically I take 100mcg even though I love my fish and vegetables.  Eat more fish and avoid many problems, especially since you also then get enough salt from seafood (as most are from the ocean) and of course you get your iodine from table salt.  The fact is, none of us each right though we think we are.  You have to eat ALL foods… not just fried, not just beef, not just potatoes, not just any one thing.  We have to eat a balanced diet and while our lives become busier and we don’t live to eat, we eat to live, often, we find ourselves with unhealthy foods and diets.  The solution?  Cook and eat at home, its healthier, its better and though food prices rise, its often cheaper.  Eat the right foods and you won’t need supplements for iodine, and other nutrients.  And here is an added tip:  take a multi-vitamin.  Yea, I hate it too, especially at $15/bottle, but that bottle will last me a month and even when you take these vitamins, sometimes you still fall short the older you get.  Anyone over age 35 should be on a multivitamin — Think of it like this… you are not getting older, your body just can’t produce nutrients as fast as it needs them, so you need some help, because you know very well you can’t spend all your time in the kitchen making the foods that you need to eat to stay healthy.  Early meeting, you grab a coffee and donut or bagel.  Another meeting and you need to do something at lunch and you opt for a quick sandwich from the deli or worse, a fast food chain.  Coldcuts are loaded with sodium, and of course bread, that shred of lettuce and a slice of tomato do little to offset the amount of sodium and nitrites that make it right.  You go home.. no time to cook… you default to a frozen dinner, can of soup, or worse yet, take out.

Its hard, I know how difficult it is.  So you have some choices.
1)  Order healthy choices online, with delivery they are less than $5-10 per meal.
2)  On your day off (if you have one) cook enough food for a week and plan on brown-bagging it and bringing your own lunch to work or on the road.  Cooking these foods is simple even if you cannot boil water, you can assemble healthy foods for the coming week
3)  If you have the money hire a personal nutrition chef, they come to your house once or twice a week and prepare meals for an entire week which are easily reheated
4)  Take your multivitamins!  And drink A LOT of water in place of soda, coffee or wine!
5)  Eat something different every day.  One day can be vegetarian, another day pasta, another day steak, another day soup, another day fish, another day chicken, and if you have something ‘bad’ like fast food or takeout, diner or whatever, at least you know you had a diverse diet… but still take the multi vitamins!

On one last note. To those younger.  I know how tough college can be… lots of classes, lots of studying and then the fun part, socializing, not a lot of money and what little money you have you spend on beer at the local college bar socializing.  That is all good.  However, you must eat.  People in the military and college students are at highest risk for mononucleosis because of heavy schedules, little rest and poor diet.  It is something that can come and haunt you decades later.   Mononucleosis can be dormant, but can hit you like  ton of bricks years later when you encounter your first stressful job.  The best medicine is prevention.

Also, for all you young people who go through hazing from a sorority or fraternity who force you to drink, make sure you eat, even if they force you to drink only water, a gallon at a time.  Most don’t realize that water can be deadly as much as alcohol.  You drink too much alcohol, you get a hangover mainly due to the alcohol and dehydration.  But if you drink too much water on an empty stomach, you can suffer the very same effects as a hangover as you have flushed out all the salt from your body, which is essential, and you can die.  It does not happen often, but it happens.  So if you are going to take part in a competition, be sure you eat first.  If you are going to drink make sure every other cocktail is a glass of water, and if you are going to be “hazed” be sure you eat before drinking 30-50 shots of water.  It might seem harmless but its not.  Don’t mess with your body recklessly and it won’t threaten you with poor health or death.

You don’t need to go to the gym every day, if you do thats great, but be sure you are well fed, have your vitamins or in worse case, drink Gatorade.   My suggestion would be to jog lightly at least 1 mile a day, eat right, and take a multivitamin – that would be my ‘lazy way’ out of it.

I am not a doctor or physician, and this information took me decades to learn, hopefully you will research my information and research and find yourself on your own healthy path before 10 years go by and you ask yourself “Why do I look and feel like garbage, why do people twice my age look twice as good”?   Take care of yourself, its a long term investment and if your are lucky IT WILL pay off… only unfortunate people do not have the privilege of growing old because they die too soon.

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