Salt

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Salt is a basic mineral and an essential ingredient in many foods, but how do we know when we’re eating enough or too much of it? And what kind of salt is best? Is it the same thing as sodium? I had so many questions when I first started researching this ingredient!

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There are so many types of salt so I’ll be focusing on dietary salt. I wasn’t even sure, what’s the difference between salt and sodium? Many manufacturers and most labels use the terms interchangeably. Technically, however, while there are many different kinds of salt, edible salt is mainly composed of sodium chloride. So sodium is just one of the two essential elements that salt contains.

Okay so we’re eating dietary salt, not just sodium. But which kind should I use at home, is sea salt better than table salt? What about iodized salt?

Some people go for sea salt because it’s not processed. We use either at home, depending on if we want the grainier texture in the food. Also, most table salt is iodized and that’s what is used as a food additive at most restaurants and manufacturing facilities. Frankly, most of our salt intake isn’t from the foods make at home, but from restaurants and processed foods. So chances are that you’re not about to have issues with an iodine deficiency anytime soon!

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More than 90% of Americans daily consume more than the recommended maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium, and 40% of this comes from just ten basic foods[1].

To cut down on your salt intake you can reduce processed foods in your diet, especially the ones listed above. When consuming such foods, make sure to read labels and choose foods with fewer milligrams of sodium per serving.  As you can see on the left, the amount of salt in packaged and processed foods can vary significantly between brands. For example, the sodium in chicken noodle soup can vary by 840 mg per cup.

Personally, I’ve always had an aversion to salty foods and barely use it in my own cooking. I wanted to figure out if there’s a minimum daily-recommended intake because I’ve been craving salt lately. I’ve stepped it up and have been using more in my cooking; I do want to listen to my body and hardly eat processed foods. Yet if anyone finds a minimum recommended sodium intake, or studies on this subject, please let me know!!

Eating too much salt isn’t just an American problem. Britain’s Food Standards Agency hired a comedian to help them publicize the issue. Here’s the video in case you’re interested in the British humour:

Here’s a starting place if you want to do more reading about sodium:
http://www.cdc.gov/features/vitalsigns/sodium/

 

To Eat or Not to Eat: Eggs

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Although they’re fairly easy to crack, eggs are a complicated topic to digest because of their diverse contents. Their complex nature, however, also makes eggs a versatile food that I eat frequently. Most people I know eat eggs at least twice a week, so the question stands: should we eat so many eggs?

Pros:

  • Eggs are a low-fat, low-calorie and low-cost source of high-quality protein. They also contain other key nutrients including choline, riboflavin, foliate, vitamin B12, selenium, tryptophan and even lutein.[1][2][3]
  • If you’re concerned about the way that hens are treated or want to support sustainable farming practices, locally sourced cage-free eggs are sold in most communities.

Cons:

  • The yolk of one large egg contains 210 mg of cholesterol, which is a lot.[4] But a doctor representing the Mayo Clinic has suggested that studies indicate that eating four egg yolks or fewer on a weekly basis hasn’t been proven to increase your risk of heart disease (which can be triggered by high cholesterol).[5]
  • Although eggs are not a common allergen for adults, an article in a pediatric journal suggests that they may be one of the most prevalent allergies among young children. The article suppositions that reactions to egg whites are more common than yolks.  However I haven’t found further literature on this subject, especially with regards to the prevalence of an egg intolerance or allergy among adults. This is particularly interesting to me because my friend recently figured out that her body reacts adversely to eggs. Please post in the comments if you have a similar story, or know of any other literature about eggs as irritants!
  • Many athletes put raw eggs into post-workout shakes, which makes the eggs easier to consume in higher quantities. But raw eggs can carry risks of bacteria like salmonella. Furthermore, your body harnesses more protein from cooked eggs than raw eggs, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.[6]

After all of this research, I will stick to my current diet of no more than half a cup of egg whites each day plus two to six whole eggs a week, which I generally cook thoroughly. I’ve also discovered that it’s been officially proven that the egg came first, not the chicken.

 

 

Additional FAQ I found fascinating:

  • When shopping in the grocery store, have you ever noticed the letter egg grade on the carton?  It’s generally AA or A, through grade B eggs are also occasionally sold at retail. I always thought it had to do with their size, but that’s exclusively the weight class category, which includes Jumbo, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small or Peewee. Grades are given to eggs based on their appearance. Grade B eggs, for example, may have thinner egg whites or slight stains on the shells. So next time you are deciding between AA, A or B, consider that they don’t reflect much on how well the eggs will taste or anything.
  • You’re not supposed to wash eggs because the wash water can be absorbed into the porous eggshell and contaminate the egg white.
  • Good egg or bad egg? A spoiled egg will smell bad, whether or not it is cooked.

The USDA publicizes many of these facts and more: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Focus_On_Shell_Eggs/index.asp#0

Just Ingredients: Back to Basics

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Next time you’re reaching for that jar of peanut butter, at least take the time to read the ingredients. You may be brand-loyal and always buy the same thing, but it may have four, five or even twenty ingredients on the label when it should only have one: peanuts. The same thing goes for oatmeal, egg whites and many other packaged foods. It’s time that we go back to basics.

This segment of the blog will feature single-ingredient foods. Not only will I focus on the pros and cons of including these foods in your daily diet, but hopefully also shed some light on healthy portion sizes or my preferred alternatives.