Posts Tagged ‘sodium’

How To Read A Nutrition Label

September 21, 2015

 

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Many of us know it is prudent to read nutrition labels to see what exactly our packaged foods consist of. Very few of us really know what all those numbers, percentages and descriptions really mean for our health.

Here is a comprehensive guide to deciphering those labels and why it is important to do so:

Serving size: This denotes how many servings the package contains, according to the manufacturer.  This number can be very decieving, since the entire contents may be easily consumed in one sitting by yourself, yet the package lists it as 3 servings. The FDA sets the serving sizes. All of the information listed on the label refers to one single serving. If you eat the whole package, you must multiply the calories and fat by the amount listed. For example, a bag of potato chips states one serving as 1 oz. and lists the servings per container as 14. If you can get 14 servings from one bag of chips, congratulations! You have amazing will power. For the rest of us, get out your calculator and start multiplying.

Percentage of Daily Value: This is calculated based on someone who eats 2000 calories per day as their normal diet. For most women, this is more than they need to maintain a healthy weight. For highly active women, and many men, this may not be enough. Take this number with a grain of salt, (something we will discuss later in this post.)

Fats: Recent research points out that eating fat doesn’t make us fat. In fact, we need fat in our diet for optimum wellness. Certain vitamins are fat soluable, meaning they need to dissolve in fat to be carried through the body. They also help us maintain our body temperature, and provide insulation for our organs. That said, there are many different types of fat, and choosing the right type is critical to our health. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products, and are known to raise cholesterol, and could also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are mostly made from processing oils using a method called partially hydrogenating. This makes them more shelf stable, but it also makes them artery cloggers. Trans fats are also attributed to an increase in unhealthy LDL cholesterol, and lower the more desirable HDL cholestoral. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Better choices are unsaturated fats, which include many liquid oils, such as olive oil, safflower oil or corn oil. Many fish are also high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Plant based sources of fat, including nuts and seeds and avocado are also good for providing protection to your heart and lower blood pressure. If the label lists a high level of saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, or any trans fats, it is best to put it back on the shelf and explore other choices.

Beware of labels that boast “fat free.” Generally speaking, when the fat is removed, it is replaced by something else, often sugar. Fat free doesn’t equate to calorie free. Just sayin’.

Sodium: Sodium = salt. Pure and simple. It makes our food taste great, but it also raises blood pressure when consumed in high quantities. Our recommended daily consumption of salt is set as less than 2.300 mg. It is suggested that no single food should contain more than 805 mg. per serving. Check the label carefully for how many servings are in the package. Often, there are several, making the facts a bit decieving. High sodium also means highly processed. Most canned or packaged foods have a much higher sodium content than the freshly made counterpart. Look out for canned soups, jarred sauces or lunch meats. They tend to be sodium bombs.

Fiber: When looking at grain based products, such as bread, look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Labels will often describe the fiber as soluable, or insoluable. Sources of soluable fiber include oatmeal, barley and dried beans. This type of fiber can be helpful in lowering cholesterol. Insoluable fiber protects against bowel disease, and is found in whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

Sugars: Sugar can crop up in all kinds of foods which are not associated with being sweet, like crackers, or cereals that market themselves as healthy. It is often listed as glucose, sucrose or fructose, among others. If it ends in “ose,” it is a type of sugar. Sugar substitutes might have the ending “tol,” such as malatol,or sorbitol. These are sugar alcohols and are associated with causing digestive issues. If your artificially sweetened foods send you racing to a restroom, you might want to avoid them in the future.

Protein: Our bodies are made of protein, and it is often referred to as the building blocks of life. We need protein to repair and make new cells. Protein is found in animal products, as well as soy, nuts, and beans among other plant based sources. The rule of thumb, is to eat .45 grams of protein per day, for every pound of body weight. That means a 150 pound person should consume about 68 grams per day.

Total Carbohydrates: This number could come from healthy sources, such as whole grains or even vegetables, or it could come from the “white stuff,”such as processed white flour and sugar. Cross reference this number with the sugar and fiber numbers to get the full picture.

Vitamins and Minerals: This lists the vitamins and minerals that are both naturally occuring, and those that are added. The percentages are often most helpful in determining just how much of these are in any given food. Remember, these are often based on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you only eat 1500 calories per day, these percentages will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Ingredients: This is critical information. All ingredients are required to be listed on the label, in order of quantity. To me, this is the most important information on the label, as it tells me exactly what I am eating. When I began doing my Whole 30 elimination diet, I realized that most packaged foods had lots more in them than one would think. Almond butter for instance, should contain almonds, and possibly salt. Sugar, or additives are uneccessary and can be avoided if you are a savvy shopper. If there is a long list of ingredients on a simple food, it might be one to avoid. If you can’t pronounce some of them, that too is a danger sign that the food might not be very good for you.

Knowing what we are putting into our bodies is key to good health and weight control.

There is a great app from food expert Marion Nestle, called Fooducate, which allows you to scan a food’s barcode and get a letter grade on the healthiness of the product, right there in the grocery aisle. While the foods that don’t contain a barcode or a package are usually the best for us, this is an invaluable tool to help you navigate the vast array of foods available to us.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Between the Bread

March 16, 2015

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If turkey wraps or a ham and cheese on a roll are your go-to lunch staples, it might be time to re-think what’s going on between the bread.

Cold cuts fall into the category of processed meats. Processing occurs when meat is cured, smoked and possibly injected with hormones before being marketed as lunchmeat, bacon or hot dogs. Processed lunch meats also contain an array of meats and meat byproducts that might otherwise be thrown away.

In an article on the Daily Meal, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. David Gruener states that,”(they) are combined with other typically non-edible products and chemicals to artificailly create a palatable mixture.This means that not only are the least nutritious byproducts of animals used, but artificial fillers, flavors and preservatives are added at times, in large quantities, to ensure that the new concoction is both flavorful and visually appealing, despite the dismal nutritional profile.”

These meats also have very high sodium contents as well as potentially cancer causing nitrites used to preserve them.  There is also a high presence of E.coli and listeria found in cold cuts.

Using fresh turkey, chicken or beef in your sandwich can be a much healthier alternative to cold cuts. Once again, eating “real food,” instead of it’s highly processed and packaged counterpart is a much better choice.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Check us out at indigojonesnyc on instagram.

Want to see what we have been pinning? Take a look at our Pinterest page!

Tweet along on Twitter.

Take a peek at our Tumblr.

To keep up with the latest, show us some “like” by liking our Facebook page

Check out our new site Indigo Jones Eats

Salt of the Earth

March 13, 2014

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Salt often gets a bad rap these days, taking the blame for many of our health woes. The fact is, that salt is an essential mineral that our bodies need to properly function. It also adds flavor to food, and can be a natural preservative.

There are many types of salt on the market, each with it’s own distinct flavor and texture. Before you settle for that cardboard cylinder, learn a bit about the different varieties, and how to use each one.

Table salt: Refined from underground mills, this is the most common salt. It is often found in salt shakers, and those cardboard cylinders in the supermarket. Most table salt also contains anticaking agents and iodine, which is an essential  nutrient. The flavor is non distinct and can even be a bit on the bitter side. It is higher in sodium chloride than many other salts, and because of it’s pourable texture and bland taste, it is easily over used.

Kosher salt: The most all- purpose of the bunch, and the one used most frequently by chefs. It’s larger crystals dissolve easily, disperse flavor evenly, and it’s coarse texture works well for sprinkling.

Sea salt: Similar to kosher salt, it has a coarse crystal which dissolves easily, and can also be found finely ground. Sea salt can have a slightly tinged hue, depending on it’s origin, and the minerals it contains. Pink salt, for instance, is iron rich which causes it’s rosy color.
Expect sea salt to have a slightly briny, or even sweet flavor.

Flaked sea salt, or Maldon sea salt: This quick dissolving salt from England is considered a finishing salt.  It’s soft white flakes add a brininess to already cooked foods.

Fleur de Sel: This is the cream of the salt crop. Harvested by hand in France under perfect conditions which allows it to “bloom” on the surface of the water, fleur de sel is slow dissolving, allowing the eater to savor it’s delicate flavor. Crush it in your fingers, and sprinkle it on salads, vegetables and cooked foods.

Himalayan Sea Salt: Hand mined in Pakistan, this ancient salt is thought to be the purest possible. Often used in spa treatments, or as a slab to serve food, it is also useful as both a cooking or a finishing salt.

When using flakier salts, it’s best to add them at the end, and a little can go a long way. Given the coarse or flakier texture, and the increased flavor, you may find you use less than you would when using traditional table salt. Before you just pour the salt on your food, be sure to taste it, and decide if more is really necessary.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Cutting The Mustard

February 12, 2014

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Athletes often use sports drinks and energy gels to refuel and prevent muscle cramps during strenuous activities. These costly and high sugar aids can easily be replaced by a simple fast food staple: mustard packets.

Muscle cramps are often caused by a deficiency in  acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that simulates the muscles during work. When consumed, mustard triggers the body to produce more  acetylcholine, due to it’s high acetic acid content.

Turmeric, which gives mustard it’s rich yellow hue, is thought to have beneficial properties as well. Often touted as an anti-inflammatory and a natural arthritis aid, turmeric is thought to reduce muscle stiffness and joint swelling.

Vinegar, found in prepared mustard, is another home remedy which is effective in  relieving muscle cramps. Just one packet of mustard contains the same amount of sodium as 8 oz. of Gatorade Endurance. The combination of vinegar, sodium and turmeric packs a big punch in supporting athlete’s quick nutritional needs.

If your artificially flavored sports gels and drinks aren’t cutting the mustard anymore, it might be time to try the real deal.

photo: Glasshouse Images

Not So Healthy “Health” Foods

June 27, 2012

Do you ever wonder why you aren’t losing weight, when you feel like you are making healthy meal choices? Chances are, despite their healthy reputation, many of the foods you are eating are packed with hidden sources of sugar, fat and calories!
Our friends at Everyday Health shared the inside scoop on 11 not so healthy “health” foods with us:

Protein bars, or “power bars” are touted as healthy snacks with deceiving labels such as “gluten free”, “low fat” and “natural”, but most of them are just fancy candy bars. Watch out for high sugar content and artificial ingredients. Many protein bars have 300-400 calories, and aren’t as satisfying as whole foods with a similar calorie count.

Granola, the organic, whole grain cereal, dried fruit and nut mix, is actually extremely high in calories, fat and sugar. Consider it a topping to sprinkle on yogurt and not as a meal.

Dried fruits are high in fiber and vitamins, but are also high in calories and sugar, and lack the water content of fresh fruit.  Just one cup of prunes packs over 400 calories, while the same amount of fresh plums has only 76.

Sushi is a great source of lean protein, vegetables and seaweed. However, many of the modern rolls have fried foods, mayo or cream cheese in them. Soy sauce is high in sodium, which can cause hypertension and bloating.

Stick to simple rolls made of fish, fresh raw vegetables and brown rice, and leave off the sauce.

Most Caesar Salads have more calories than a cheeseburger! While the lettuce is a great low-cal base, the croutons, cheese and fatty dressing make it a hidden calorie bomb! Go for a salad with lots of fresh vegetables and some grilled chicken, with a drizzle of balsamic dressing instead.

Opting for the filet of fish sandwich sounds good, but once the fish is breaded, fried and slathered in tartar sauce, it is no longer a healthy choice. Putting it on buttered white bread just adds insult to injury. Next time, try a grilled fish sandwich (open faced on whole wheat) or a simple fish taco with salsa and vegetables instead. Hold the sour cream and cheese please!

Margarine can be a good choice for those watching their cholesterol. Many margarines use trans fats, which is worse for your health than butter. Make sure your margarine is plant fortified, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

Fruit juices often have tons of added sugar to enhance their taste. Even the pure fruit juices miss the fiber and nutrients that are found in the whole food, especially those with edible peels. They can also add up to lots of calories without even realizing it.

Bran muffins sound healthy, but in reality, the sugar, sodium and fat added to the whole grains make them a diet trap. The supersizing of baked goods, adds to the problem.

Flavored waters and sports drinks are either high in calories, or filled with artificial flavorings.  Those touted as vitamin and mineral enhanced often don’t have enough to substantially contribute to your daily requirement. Unless you are really sustaining long, tough workouts, opt for good ‘ole H2O.

Turkey burgers are thought of as a low fat alternative to red meat, but depending on the cut and preparation, they can have more fat than a lean cut of beef. Look for lean ground turkey at the store, and go easy on the trimmings!

Want to know more? Check out the full article and video at Everyday Health!

Photos and information courtesy of Everyday Health

An Assault Against Salt

June 18, 2010

Salt has become the latest in a long line of food substances under siege by nutritionists. Currently, the government is revising the guidelines of its iconic food pyramid to cut the recommended daily amount of sodium from the current 2300 mg. daily to 1500 mg. As a reference point, one teaspoon of salt contains 2325 mg, already over the healthy limit.

Our bodies need sodium in small amounts to function. Sodium helps maintain the balance of fluids in our bodies, influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles and transmits nerve impulses. The excess is supposed to be excreted in our urine.

Often the body cannot effectively eliminate all of the excess sodium, causing an increase in blood volume, creating a rise in blood pressure and forcing the heart to work harder. This can lead to heart and kidney disease or stroke.

It is estimated that 77% of our salt intake comes from processed foods, while 12% comes from natural sources, and 11% is added during cooking and eating. So, it’s not likely that the light sprinkling of salt on our food is the culprit. When buying foods and condiments, look for other forms of sodium on the label:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium nitrate or nitrate

The best way to reduce sodium in your diet is to eat more fresh and fewer processed foods. Avoid lunchmeats, bacon and hotdogs, which have nitrates and added salt.

Limit the use of sodium laden condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and most bottled salad dressings and sauces.

Use fresh herbs and spices, and the zest from citrus fruits to add flavor to your foods without salt.

Eliminating salt use slowly will help your palette adjust more easily. Soon you will be enjoying the natural flavors of fresh, healthy food and the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

photo: Glasshouse Images


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