Monday, November 4, 2013

Oh No, Not Salt Too?

I am often surprised how many people, who have developed a serious and consistent exercise routine, give no thought to the important role a healthy diet plays in overall health. I must admit I fell into this category as well. When I first became serious about exercise, I thought it gave me a license to eat as much of whatever I wanted.  I was working out several hours a week but my performance was not improving as fast as I felt it should.

I can’t stress enough how important and health and balanced diet is to improving your health and in maximizing the efforts of your exercise program.  Today, it’s relatively easy to learn how to have more healthy diet as Google is your friend.  A few small key strokes and you have literally thousands of websites that provide excellent advice.  Limit saturated fats and full fat animal proteins, eat healthy grains and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, barley, Oatmeal, whole wheat bread), fruits, vegetables and when using oil use monounsaturated (olive oil) when possible.
But is it really that simple?  Like many other things, limited knowledge is good, but growth comes from digging deeper to better understand the subject at hand.  One such area that people should be more aware of is the role salt plays in diet. Eating too many salty foods can trigger numerous health problems such as high blood pressure. According to the America Heart Association, the average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day, more than twice the recommended daily allowance, with 75% of sodium coming from our diet.
Did you know that many common foods outside of French Fries, dry roasted peanuts and potato chips are loaded with salt?  Salt can be so devastating to a person’s health that the American Heart Association is increasing awareness of sodium by listing six common foods, foods many exercisers eat, whose salt content can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Sodium will also dehydrate the body, a major issue for those that exercise and perspire.

Here is a quick look at six foods the AHA outlines as being high in salt.
Although athletes need good carbohydrates one slice of bread can have as much as 230 mg of sodium.
Cold Cuts/Cured Meats
Many low fat cold cuts such as turkey that appear healthy can contain 1,050 mg of sodium per serving.
Although not healthy, pizza with low fat cheese still packs 760 mg of sodium per slice.
Although skinless, boneless chicken breasts are a good choice for lean protein, many times they are loaded with sodium as a preservative.
What can appear to be a relatively low fat and vegetable packed can of soup can have up to 940mg of sodium per can.
Ah, the good old sandwich. Consider the salt content of some breads and deli meat; add in low fat mayo, pickles and a sandwich can contain over 1,500mg of sodium.
When grocery shopping, pay attention to the food labels in regards to the amount of sodium per serving. As a good rule of thumb, fresh food will have, on average, much less sodium/salt than processed foods.
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer and exercise and endurance enthusiast.  He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and other endurance events.