Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Time Bombs — Hidden Salt, Sugar and Fat in Everyday Foods

Even "good" eaters compromise their health with poor dietary habits—and they often don't even realize it. The most dangerous culprits: salt, sugar and fat. Make the appropriate changes to avoid these "hidden" ingredients to reduce your risk of disease.

Table salt and high-sodium ingredients flavor and preserve everything—from pudding and cake salad dressing and frozen canned food and condiments.
About 20% of the population is sodium-sensitive, suffering from increased blood pressure or fluid retention due to excess sodium. Excess sodium also causes bones to release calcium and therefore contributes to the development of osteoporosis.
The average American consumes 3,000 milligrams (mg) to 5,000 mg of sodium per day. Aim for no more than 2,000 mg per day. People with congestive heart failure, gout, hypertension and kidney problems should avoid foods with added salt.
Sodium is added in various forms, including monosodium glutamate (MSG)...sodium bicarbonate...sodium chloride (table salt)...and sodium nitrate.
One cup of soup can easily contain 800 mg to 1,000 mg of sodium. A few handfuls of chips can have up to 400 mg. Read labels to compare the sodium content of similar products.

Buy foods in their natural states. Avoid processed foods. They are likely to have added sodium.
Do not add salt while cooking. If you must add salt, use it sparingly on the surface when you're ready to eat — don't mix it in.
Use lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar and extra herbs and spices to flavor foods. All add punch without extra sodium.

Refined and even natural sugars are added to everything— from baby food and breakfast pasta sauce and processed foods. On food labels, sugar is listed in many ways — as sucrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, maple syrup, molasses and others. An ingredient ending in -ose is usually a form of sugar.
If you are overweight, eating excess sugar can slow weight loss or even cause weight gain. Dried fruit, fruit juice and foods flavored with added sugar are concentrated in calories. All sugar — whether refined or natural — can contribute to elevated blood triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease.

Eat fresh fruit Limit processed fruit products, such as fruit juices and canned and dried fruits. I advise patients to eat no more than three servings of fruit a day...or one serving per day for maximum weight loss.
View fruit as dessert Fruit is a good source of vitamins, minerals and health-supporting phytochemicals as well as fiber. Make fresh fruit the sweet ending to a meal. Skip fattening desserts, which are devoid of nutritional benefits.
Add sugar to the surface. As with salt, a little sugar on the surface of food adds flavor without many extra calories. A bowl of cooked oatmeal topped with a teaspoon of brown sugar is satisfying and contains less sugar than many presweetened packaged varieties.

Fat is added to processed foods to enhance flavor and texture and blend ingredients. Everyone needs to monitor fat intake. In addition to obesity, consuming dietary fat promotes cancer, coronary artery disease and diabetes. Both animal and plant fats are a concern.
I advise no added fat. Those who need to lose weight should also avoid high-fat plant foods, such as avocados, nuts, olives, seeds and soy products.
Food manufacturers list fat on labels in different ways...
• Mono- and diglycerides. These fats are added to bread andother baked goods to soften them.
Hydrogenated fat (trans fatty acids). Commonly used in margarine and processed foods, it raises blood cholesterol levels even more than butter and cream.
• "Fat-free" Foods that contain less than one-half gram of fat per serving can be labeled "fat-free." The trouble is that many standard "servings" are small by consumers' standards. If you eat several servings of a so-called fat-free food, you may be eating a fair amount of total fat.
• Choice of fats. Foods are often labeled with possible fat sources. A product "may contain soybean and/or cottonseed oil." Manufacturers can then use whichever fat is most cost-effective.

• Eat fresh foods. Baked potatoes, steamed vegetables and cooked rice do not have any extra fat unless you put it there.
Choose wisely. Eat less meat and fewer dairy products and more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Cook and bake from scratch to control the amount of fat used. examples: Use nonstick cookware...substitute mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce or prune paste for fat.

source: John McDougall, MD, director of The McDougall Program, a 12-day live-in plan to teach proper nutrition at St. Helena Hospital and Center for Health, Napa Valley, California. He is author of numerous books, including The McDougall Program for Women: What Every Woman Needs to Know to Be Healthy for Life. Plume.

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