Making sense of salt

Sodium-TileSodium is a vital mineral for life and also a key element used in food processing. Because of its usefulness in food manufacturing, the average sodium intake in the US is much higher than is healthy; we average about 3400 milligrams (mg) daily and should be limiting our intake to no more than 1500 mg.

When we think of sodium we link it to salt. For those of you proudly saying, “I never add salt to my food,” know that about 75 percent of all the sodium you consume is in food not prepared at home.

Breads and rolls, crazy as it seems since they don’t taste salty, are the single biggest source of sodium in the typical diet. Oh sure, thatbread English muffin at about 500 mg is just an occasional food, but a conventional piece of bread/toast supplies about 250 mg/slice. No need to drop your daily bread but realize how quickly sodium sneaks up on you.

A recent study at the University of Minnesota was conducted to determine if you could alter the acceptance of a single food (tomato juice) when you lowered its sodium content without changing the sodium in the rest of the diet. The good news was that with repeated exposure, the test subjects liked the lower sodium item at the end of the study. OK, perhaps not earth shattering, we like whatever we habitually eat, but there’s a bigger lesson here.

Healthy eating takes practice! For my student who just reported his single’s day sodium intake was 10,000 mg, I’m guessing a whole lot of practicing will have to go on to be well,

Marcia

PS October 24th is National Good and Plenty Day – my dad’s favorite candy. I will be celebrating!

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Seasonal vegetables

Red CabbageFinally! I welcome the new crop of vegetables along with the change of seasons (which is exactly the same thing I say in the spring).

Despite the fact we have dozens of veggies from which to choose, don’t we always reach for our favorites? So, by the end of the season, we’re a bit tired of the old, let’s bring in the new.

A student asked me what “seasonal” meant which is really a deeper question than it first seems. The easiest answer: whatever is in abundance at the market is most likely “in season”. My grocery had huge displays of sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and kale this week.

My student’s question highlights the fact that in the US, at most markets, we can buy practically any fruit or vegetable throughout the year. But should we?brocollini

When you buy out of season, besides the hit you take in the wallet, flavor will be mediocre, at best. We can all tell the difference between the summer tomato from the farmer’s market and the anemic looking, tasteless winter tomato, right?

The longer the journey from the farm to your fork, the greater the chance your produce wasn’t picked at its peak ripeness. Our produce is at its nutritional peak when it’s ripened in the garden.

We’re enjoying broccolini these days as I saw it used in a recipe (which at my house is just source material and is never used). If you’ve not tried broccolini, give it a go. It’s a cousin of our conventional broccoli with many of the same nutritional pluses: fat free, no cholesterol, very low in sodium and high in vitamins A, C and K. The other healthy plant chemicals in broccoli are in broccolini too. It tends to have a milder taste than broccoli so it might be appealing to the whole family.

Tell me what seasonal vegetable you are happiest to see. Cheers to a new season of vegetables to be well,

Marcia

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