The American Heart Association recently released their findings that sodium (found in salt and baking powder/baking soda) contributes to 1 out of 10 deaths in the U.S. Up to 75 percent of sodium is found in processed foods. If you've read my previous blog posts, you know how I support a "whole foods" diet free from processed foods. This is just one more reason why.
So what's the harm in a little sodium? While some sodium is necessary for metabolic health, Americans consume WAY more than what is needed. One teaspoon of salt or baking soda has 1,000 mg of sodium. Amounts over approximately 2,000 mg a day can do more damage than you think, such as:
- increase fluids in your system to balance the salinity of your blood, therefore increasing blood pressure, which:
- increases your risk of cardiovascular disease
- increases your risk of having a stroke
- leech calcium from your bones to buffer the acid from salt, leading to osteoporosis
- increase your risk for stomach cancer
- increase your risk for kidney disease
While I don't eat or serve my family many processed foods, I was shocked to learn how much sodium I was still feeding them with "healthy" baked goods. I try to not eat much gluten, a protein found in wheat. Instead, I mix flours from quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, teff, and other ancient grains. When you take away the gluten, however, you take away the binding ingredient that holds baked goods together. What many gluten-free recipes use to bind the non-wheat flours together is baking powder or baking soda, up to 2 Tbsp per recipe.
I've happily made my kids buckwheat/quinoa pancakes (and even have it as a recipe on my Recipes page, now updated) without realizing how much sodium was in the recipe. It calls for 1 Tbsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. No problem, right? WRONG! I calculated my batch of pancakes had more than 1,500 mg of sodium! That's nearly an entire days worth of sodium...FOR BREAKFAST. Yikes. If you use baking soda instead, it would be nearly 4,000 mg of sodium!
If you have kidney or heart issues, you are told to eat a low-sodium diet because sodium is so hard on both organs. Most of these people aren't able to eat many baked goods. Now we know why. There are sodium-free baking powders that use calcium carbonate instead of sodium carbonate, but I haven't tried them yet. They get great reviews online, so that is #1 on my list of things to buy the next time I go to Whole Foods (Ener-G is the recommended brand).
Try to keep your daily intake of sodium to under 2,000 mg. If you read the labels on your processed foods packages, be sure to keep track as you will likely find you are eating a lot more sodium than you thought. If you eat out much, be aware that restaurants generally use LOADS of salt to make their food taste good. Ask your waiter for low sodium options or to have the chef prepare you dish without salt. You can always add a few dashes yourself if needed.
I know how hard it is to give up salt. I am a salt person. I prefer salt over sugar any day of the week. It's almost embarrassing how fast I can put down a bowl of guacamole and salty tortilla chips. Now that I know what harm it's causing, I will be smarter the next time I buy chips, opting for "no salt" varieties. I'll also start using sodium-free baking powder. And as usual, I'll stay away from as many processed foods as possible. My heart and bones will thank me for it!