February is Heart Health Month

February is National Heart Health Month.

A major problem for Americans is our high sodium intake. Having too much sodium (salt) in your diet puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart  Association, on average Americans consume twice the daily recommended amount of sodium.

Besides the salt shaker and potato chips, most of the salt that we consume in our diet comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Here’s a look at some of the saltiest foods we eat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some on the list might surprise you. (published by the American Heart Association  www.heart.org)

Breads and rolls. We all know breads add carbohydrates and calories, but salt, too? It may not seem like it because a lot of bread doesn’t even taste salty, but one piece can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium. That’s 15 percent of the recommended amount from only one slice, and it adds up quickly. Have a sandwich and muffin in one day? The bread alone could put you at about 1,000 milligrams of salt – or two-thirds of the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sodium limit of 1,500 milligrams. Be sure to check the nutrition label as different brands of the same foods may have differing sodium levels.

Cold cuts and cured meats. Even foods that would otherwise beconsidered healthy may have high levels of sodium. Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. They have so much because most cooked meats would spoil in only a few days without the added sodium solution. Look for lower sodium varieties.

Pizza. OK, everybody knows pizza’s not exactly a health food. But you’re probably thinking the big concerns are cholesterol, fat and calories. But pizza’s plenty salty, too. One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium. It doesn’t take a whole lot of math to realize two or three slices alone can send you way over the daily sodium recommendation. You may want to have fewer slices of pizza topped with vegetables and less cheese.

Poultry. Surely chicken can’t be bad for you, right? Well, it depends on how the chicken is prepared. Reasonable portions of lean, skinless grilled chicken are great. But when you start serving up the
chicken nuggets or poultry injected with added sodium solutions/marinades, the sodium starts adding up. Just 3 ounces of frozen and breaded nuggets can add nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. (And most kids probably aren’t stopping at 3 ounces.) Check labels to be sure you are selecting the lower sodium version and that there are no added sodium solutions.

Soup. This is another one of those foods that seems perfectly healthy. It can’t be bad if Mom gave it to you for the sniffles, right? But when you take a look at the nutrition label for some products, though, it’s easy to see how too much soup can quickly turn into a sodium overload. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium. Look for lower sodium options that taste just as great!

Sandwiches. This covers everything from grilled cheese to hamburgers. We already know that breads and cured meats are heavy on the sodium. Add them together, and you can pretty easily surpass 1,500 milligrams of sodium in one sitting. Top sandwiches with plenty of vegetables, such as lettuce, tomato and cucumbers.

Visit the American Heart Association’s web page at www.heart.org for ways to beat the salt habit.