Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nutritional Assault

A friend of mine is iconoclastic when it comes to nutrition, especially dietary sodium. Most of his family is dead due to hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. Though I am not as militant as he, his convictions have nevertheless rubbed off on me. While I consider myself to be in pretty good health overall, I do go through cycles of careful diet and exercise which give way to bouts with boredom, depression, and eating-for-gratification.

At the bottom of this cycle, when I start to notice how shitty I'm feeling, I begin to read the "nutritional facts" on food labels. Take Low Fat Nutri-Grain Eggo Toaster waffles. They sound healthy, right? Wrong. 430 milligrams of sodium per serving. What the fuck? Almost a quarter of your salt for the day, for a food no one would consider "salty." Only slightly less sodium per serving than a serving of Prego spaghetti sauce, the saltiest sauce on the market. Don't even mention Progresso soup. Or Chipotle, for that matter. One of those burritos has more salt than you should have in an entire day.

My favorite example: Jell-O Pudding Cups. I love those cute little things: a sweet, fun treat that makes me feel like a kid. Yummy! But they are more savory than you think: that tiny 113 g serving has 200 mg of sodium. A healthy rule of thumb for salt: you should eat no more than one milligram per calorie consumed. I'm doubling up my sodium intake when I indulge in a pudding cup. Damn that sucks.

Americans get only about 11% of their overall dietary sodium intake by adding a dash of salt to the food on their plates. A whopping 77% comes from convenience foods. These processed foods have become increasingly saturated with sodium over the last 30 years. Why is this? Not for reasons of taste. It has become a competition to create a more addictive brand. Focus marketing has determined that consumers eat more when the product has more salt. The result is hyper-food that people slavishly devour. The consequences? In part, epidemic levels of obesity, heart disease, and hypertension.

Where is my steamed kale and edamame?

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