The fact that humans started with a limited list of possibly edible things and now have practically limitless choices of things to eat is kind of amazing.
Depending on where you live, and if you can afford it, of course, the food world can literally be your oyster. (Gross! But some people like them.) And you have to appreciate how imaginative people have been over the centuries. Wondering if oysters were edible and then finding out that they were, sort of. Figuring out how to take things like stalks of wheat and turn them into breads and cereals or learning how to combine ingredients through trial and error to create complicated-but-delicious recipes. Even things we now take for granted, at some point, didn’t exist. At some point, someone took a bite of a slice of bread and thought “Let’s cook this again!” Voilà! Toast is born.
Food can sustain and even improve the human body. The problems we have now in the U.S. are mainly caused by companies that have gone too far with their tinkering and produce over-processed items that have become a staple of the American diet. This has been done to make things more shelf stable, or to improve color or flavor or just to improve profit margins. White flour, corn syrup, sugar and salt are all used too much and turn food that could have been good for you into something bad.
And the salt in our diets is becoming a huge problem.
Most people know that too much sodium can cause high blood pressure but they may not know 75% of our intake of sodium is not from table salt but from over-processed food and drinks. If you read the labels for sodium content, you’ll be shocked.
Humans need sodium, but the American Heart Association’s recommended cap is 1,500 mg, which is much less than 1 teaspoon — or 6 g — a day. And sodium is in everything from soda to baked goods, canned soups and broths, processed meats, hot dogs, ham, bacon, hard and processed cheeses, fish, poultry, peanut butter, crackers, chips, pretzels, breads and rolls, pizza, mixed pasta dishes and more.
To reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, you can begin with the following tips:
1. Read the labels of your food and switch to low-sodium versions whenever possible.
2. Rinse off canned foods such as beans and vegetables to remove some sodium.
3. Prepare more of your own meals instead of buying convenient premade ones.
4. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and buy fresh meat instead of processed.
5. Use spices instead of salt when cooking to flavor your food.
6. Try eating smaller portions. Less food equals less sodium.
And while sodium increases your blood pressure, potassium can help lower it. Eat more things like bananas, fruit and carrot juices, potatoes, tomatoes, white beans and spinach. Yogurt is also an excellent source of potassium, but you should avoid yogurt that has a lot of sugar added. My favorite kind locally is Carb Smart, which is low in sugar and sodium and can only be found at Kroger. If you want to make changes to your diet, or think you might have high blood pressure, please go talk to your doctor. Together you can plan how to get back on track and have a healthy future.