The Salt Review

By: Nikki Nies

Depending on living environment and/or accent, nouns be referred to as different things.  For instance, you won’t find the word “pop” on a menu on the East Coast, but in the MidWest, “pop’s” the standard name for soda.  Get it?  While these regional words are equally accepted and used for sodium bicarbonate, such exchange of words are not always accurate.

Salt and sodium are used interchangeably.  However, salt and sodium don’t have the same meaning.  Salt is the combination of sodium + chloride, with sodium deemed the unhealthy part of salt.  1 gram of sodium is equal to 2.5 grams of salt.  On average, people are consuming 9 grams of salt a day.

It’s important to follow these parameters as too much sodium can lead to hypertension and increase one’s risk for stroke and/or heart disease.  The salt shaker on your table isn’t the issue at hand, but 80% of sodium is from the pre packaged,prepared, restaurant processed foods that are packed with sodium rich preservatives.

Recommendation: One should have no more than 2300 mg a day of sodium/6 grams of salt.  If you’re of African American descent, 51 years or older, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, you should limit to 1500 mg per day.  Yet, high salt intake doesn’t increase one’s risk for heart disease, but sodium does!

To be more mindful of the amount of sodium in foods, choose:

  • Food with less than 50 mg sodium per serving is very low in sodium
  • Entrees with no more than 480 mg sodium per serving   
  • Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned
  • Look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” products
  • Eat in one more night a week.  Peruse the American Heart Association‘s website for heart healthy recipes and ideas
  • Limit intake of sodium rich foods–soy sauce, pickles, salad dressing, ketchup, cheese, canned meats, frozen meals (i.e. pizza, stir fry, TV dinners), bread, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, salami and sausage

Foods that contain more than 250 mg of sodium per serving are considered high in sodium.

Salt Grain Size Recommended Use Fun Fact
Sea Salt Small and large Cooking and seasoning Comes from evaporated sea water; it’s common for minerals to be left behind in sea salt, which gives it extra flavor and its off white color
Table Salt Very small For seasoning, baking and in salt shakers All mineralsare removed from table saltChemicals are added in so so the grains don’t stick together
Kosher Salt Large Cooking and Seasoning Salt isn’t actually “kosher”, meaning it doesn’t conform to Jewish food laws, it’s used to make meat kosher

Now that you can differentiate salt and sodium, you’re already on your way to lowering your risk for blood pressure, heart attack and stroke!


Refreshing Summer Salad Dressings

By: Nicole Arcilla

Some of the greatest summer recipes out there are for salads — they’re light, refreshing, and cool. It’s just what you need for those summer get togethers, or even if you’re having a solo meal! But be careful what dressing you use — those cream based dressings, like ranch, can easily turn your salad to an unhealthy dish.
So how do you avoid it? Go with an oil and vinegar-based dressing instead! Here’s how these kinds of dressings can be healthier for you:
1. The oils used are typically high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. These are good fats to consume as they have protective effects, and can even combat the bad cholesterol in your body.
2. Depending on the spices you use, these oil and vinegar-based dressings can be low in sodium – a bonus feature for those with high blood pressure, and great for everyone in general.
3. It’s true that dark green leafy veggies are much healthier for you, but its nutrients, mainly iron, are not always accessible to your body. Adding something acidic, like vinegar or citrus fruits, can activate the iron so your body can absorb and use it properly.
There’s plenty of these out in the grocery store, but why not make it yourself and make your own uniquely flavored dressing recipe? Just follow these simple steps:
What salad recipe are you going to be showing off to your friends and family this summer?

DASH to Na Moderation


By: Nikki Nies

When reading nutrition fact labels, everyone knows to check calories, more recently people have become more aware of the fat content, but another aspect of the nutrition fact label that has not received as much exposure, but everyone should be more aware of the salt content.  A lot of times salt and sodium are synonymous.  I’m guilty of mixing the two up as well.  However, to clarify NaCl is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.  So when one is talking about the salt content, one referring to NaCl, which one can consume 5000 mg of NaCl since sodium is only 40% of NaCl. Make sense?

A lot of foods may be ideal meal options for many, if looking at the calories and fat, however there may be a hidden source of weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease.    What’s the recommended sodium content?  Healthy adults should aim for no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily.  With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.

So what is sodium exactly? Why do you need watch your intake? Image

Sodium is a trace mineral, made of sodium and chloride.  When sodium content is naturally provided in foods that is an easy way to consume one’s recommended trace needs of this mineral.  Salt is needed to hold water in the blood vessels, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, maintain pH and hydration and regulates water balance.  If too much water’s in the body, the amount of blood’s increased., which makes the heart work harder.   However, many Americans consume more than 75% of their sodium in the added form.

In cooking, sodium has a lot of functions—from giving flavor, used as a preservative to prevent food borne pathogens, bind ingredients, enhance color and is used as a stabilizer.

The American Heart Association has stated if Americans reduced their sodium content by1500 mg of sodium, the numberImage of high blood pressure cases would decrease by 26% and save  more than $26 billion in healthcare costs over just a year..

With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.  When grocery shopping or eating out, be conscious of these commonly used terms associated with sodium—they don’t mean the same thing.

Interpreting Sodium Terms:

Sodium-free Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very low sodium 35 mg or less per serving
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium
Reduced (or less) sodium Usual sodium level reduced by 25% per serving
Light (for sodium reduced products) If food’s “low calorie”, “low calorie” and sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving
Light sodium If sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving

How can you reduce your sodium intake?

  • Use low sodium or no salt added vegetables—such as Rienzi products
  • Be aware of deli meats high sodium content—limit consumption to 2-3 times a week
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over canned when possible
  • Avoid adding salt when eating
  • Choose foods high in potassium, which counteract the “feeling” of needs salt
    • Such as white beans, green leafy greens, baked potatoes
    • Add lemon juice to fresh fish and vegetables

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a great meal concept caters to multiple caloric needs, such as one who wants to eat a 1600 calorie daily, but also provides servings for someone who wants to eat 2000 kcal daily.  Thankfully, the DASH diet provides the same goal: to lower blood pressure.  Even if one does not have hypertension yet, the DASH diet has a lot of great food suggestions for those with pre-hypertension and/or wanting to eat healthy.

Using these tips, one can be preventive, proactive as well as keep their high blood pressure under control.  Check out the DASH diet’s website, it contains everything from recommended sodium intake, DASH diet ebooks, great, easy recipes and media.

Photo Credit: Renal Fellow and Cooking Light 



Say Hello to Rienzi Products


By: Nikki Nies

It recently came to my attention that you can use black beans as a healthy substitute in brownies.  Yes, I said it, black beans.  As I was perusing the grocery aisles, I was looking for a brand of blacks beans with the lowest salt content.  I immediately looked at the nutrition label of the ShopRite “low sodium” black beans, which stated it contained 460 mg of sodium.  Just to check, I started looking at other brands of black beans and I found that the store brand of blacks that advertised low sodium, was in fact, NOT the brand with the lowest amount of sodium.

photo (51)

photo (49)

photo (50)

photo (52)

photo (54) photo (55) photo (56) photo (57)

Long story short, I was shocked to find that Rienzi had the lowest amount of sodium, with a solid 24 mg.  I checked out Goya, ShopRite brand, etc.  Have you ever heard of Rienzi?  I hadn’t before I had started my comparison shopping, however, it’s now my new best friend.

After purchasing the black beans, I was intrigued why I hadn’t heard of this healthy alternative.  With some research, I’ve found that Rienzi is a local brand from Astoria, NY.  The website provides some great recipes one can use while incorporating Rienzi products into everyday meals.

I was disappointed to find that the brands I thought would be low in sodium, listed sodium in the hundreds of mg.  It showed me one really has to look beyond the advertising and know exactly what’s going into one’s mouth. There’s often a misperception that Organic means healthy, but the ShopRite Organic black beans contained 130 mg of sodium, approx. 72% more sodium than the Rienzi can of black beans.

Your supermarket has a wealth of knowledge, invest a little time comparing labels the next you’re grocery store.  I’m not hear to advertise, but I believe good nutrition comes from great foods.  Check for the blue labeled cans in your local supermarket!  Above, you can see a couple of other known brands that your local supermarket may sell, however, Rienzi had the best nutrition content overall!