Food News: Potassium and Your Health

Ask anyone to name a source of potassium and inevitably they’ll say “bananas.” Yet if you ask that same person why we need potassium, you might find less of a definitive answer.

In fact, few can answer that question.

Potassium is a mineral that’s not only found in bananas, but also citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, beans, whole grains, and sweet potatoes. Researchers suggest that it’s wise for people to increase the amount of potassium in their eating patterns, since potassium can help lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake.

Let’s take a closer look at some of that research…

Dr. Alicia McDonough, a professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), evaluated the diets of several populations and found that higher potassium intakes were associated with lower blood pressure, no matter what the sodium intake was. Her review included a combination of interventional and molecular studies evaluating the effects of dietary potassium and sodium on high blood pressure in various populations. During this review, she found that the kidneys get rid of more salt and water when dietary potassium intake is high. McDonough likens high potassium intake to taking a diuretic or water pill.

Unfortunately, a typical American diet tends to be higher in processed foods, which in turn tend to be high in salt content and low in potassium. One of the most cost-effective strategies to reduce blood pressure is to cut back on salt. Improved consumer education regarding salt, changes in processed food, and reduced consumption of high sodium foods should be implemented to this effect.

Why?

Let’s explore some more data.

Finland and the UK were first to start salt reduction programs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europeans consume an average of 7-18 grams of salt per day, which is far above the suggested limit of 6 grams per day, which contains 2400 mg sodium. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggested that adults consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily to reduce blood pressure, reduce the impact of high sodium intake, and slash the risk of bone loss and kidney disease. Dr. McDonough notes that consuming just ¾ cups of dried beans daily can help individuals reach half of their potassium goal.

Here are more ways to obtain more potassium:

  • Eat an orange or banana daily.
  • Include green leafy vegetables daily. Think broccoli, spinach, or kale.
  • Snack on unsalted nuts.
  • Add an avocado to your salad or sandwich.
  • Choose dark orange fruits and vegetables like melon and sweet potatoes.
  • Enjoy kiwi, mango, or papaya regularly.

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

Reference:

Alicia A. McDonough, Luciana C. Veiras, Claire A. Guevara, Donna L. Ralph, Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na evidence from population and mechanistic studies.  American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. Apr 4, 2017, E348-E356

WHO Salt Facts http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/

Display of the Month: Sodium Math

Can you believe that it’s already time for a brand-new display of the month?

Before we get to the new stuff, let’s take a quick look back at the previous displays of the month. Are you caught up?

All right, let’s dive into this month’s display…

Low Sodium Choices

Your Materials:

The Activities:

September Sodium Math

The Details:

Mix and match your materials into a visually-appealing display.

For the Guess the Salt Content interactive activity, you’ll need to do a little research beforehand. Grab a couple of grocery store staples (including some sources of shockingly high sodium levels, like prepared meals or frozen foods) and write down how many milligrams of sodium are in each one. You can take pictures of them or bring their packages into your display area for a bonus visual.

When your participants arrive, hold up (or otherwise introduce) the first item and ask people to guess how much sodium is in a serving. How much sodium is in the package? Offer Change It Up Stickers and Change It Up Bookmarks as incentives for participation and/or correct answers and use the Mini Salt Shakers from the Salt Display Kit to illustrate how much sodium is in each food.

After discussing a couple items, ask how people feel about the salt content. Is it roughly what they thought? Surprisingly high? Finish the discussion, then demonstrate how to find sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label by using the Food Label Floor Sticker. How much sodium is in one serving of the sample food? How about in the whole container?

Sodium Math

For the Make a Low-Sodium Shopping List activity, begin by brainstorming typical foods on a shopping list. Then discuss which of those foods are high in sodium. How can people remember to check the label for certain foods, comparing different versions and selecting the option with the lowest sodium? Review a few strategies with the group, exploring the pros and cons of each one.

For the Presentations, grab your laptop and projector and set up either the Salt DVD or the Sodium Education PowerPoint Show. For the latter, introduce the handouts that come with the show first and answer any initial questions people may have. After the presentation, discuss the key points. What was surprising? Why?

And here are a few materials that may come in handy for this month’s display!

Sodium Math: What We Learned

Sodium Math PosterHave you seen the Sodium Math poster yet? We released it shortly after the Dietary Guidelines for Americans debuted earlier this year. It’s a fantastic resource for displays, presentations, and even simple office decoration. With engaging questions and alluring graphics, this poster teaches valuable lessons about salt in a memorable way.

Of course, putting it together was no mean feat.

Today I want to walk through the process of creating this poster — I figured it would be useful for your own designs and displays. There were even 3 top lessons that we learned as we put the poster together! Plus, sodium is one of those food elements that most people don’t know enough about.

You see, once the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was officially released, I just knew that we had to create some kind of visual guide to dealing with sodium. But what? And how?

There’s always a lot of confusion about where sodium comes from in our daily diets. People hear the word “sodium” and they automatically equate that with “salt shaker.” However, the salt shaker is only responsible for a tiny amount of the sodium that most people consume each day. Most of the sodium (about 75%) comes from what is present in restaurant meals and packaged meals from the grocery store.

The Sodium Math poster is an engaging visual that shows how much sodium we are actually consuming versus how much is the maximum for good health.

SALTIt’s a bit of a shock to see the big pile of sodium that we eat each day and to see the teaspoons of sodium that each food contains! To balance that shock, the poster also showcases many fresh foods that are low in sodium. The poster clearly illustrates the lesson that a little work to eat 1,000 mg less sodium per day can make a big change in blood pressure.

This infogram poster was fun to work on and we learned a lot. Here are the top 3 lessons we learned in the making of this poster…

Lesson #1: True Sodium Content

One of the biggest shocks to us in the research was about how much sodium is in fast food. Turkey sandwiches sound healthy, but a turkey deli sandwich has 2,810 mg of sodium. That’s almost a 2 day supply!

Lesson #2: Planned Overs

After reading this poster, we devoted more effort to making “planned overs.” (That’s when we cook extra food for dinner and eat it for lunch the next day). Cooking your own meals at home can make a huge difference in your health, especially when it comes to sodium.

Behind the Scenes: Sodium ContentLesson #3: Small Shifts Are Important

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 recommend that just a small shift to lower sodium intake by 1,000 mg per day can make a positive impact on lowering blood pressure. This lesson was new to us and it seems relatively easy to implement. Plus, everyone loves an easy math lesson! We chose math because we wanted a way to explain sodium, salt, sodium intake, recommended sodium intake and changes needed, along with engaging food photos that can illustrate the whole lesson quickly.

So there you have it! A little peek behind the curtain and 3 lessons we learned while creating the Sodium Math poster.

As a special bonus, here’s a copy of one of our top printable sodium handouts! Reduce Salt has lots of tips and tricks for lowering the sodium in your diet. Get your free copy today!

Sodium Reduction Handout

And there are lots of other amazing sodium resources in the Nutrition Education Store! Here are a few fan favorites…

Handout Sneak Peek: Vitamin and Mineral Chart

You know what has been flying off the shelves lately?

The Vitamin and Mineral Chart. This poster highlights particular foods that are rich in certain vitamins and minerals. Since most consumers need to eat a more plant-based diet in order to avoid excess saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars while somehow managing to get enough nutrients in the calories allotted, it’s wise to have a few materials that could make that transition easier. This chart has been an eye-catching tool for inspiring and maintaining motivation, along with teaching key nutrient lessons.

As a special bonus, I want to share the printable educational handout that comes with the poster. Normally you could only access this if you had already bought the poster, but today I’m going to make an exception. The Eat Your Nutrients handout features macronutrients and micronutrients alike, highlighting the health benefits of these vital food elements.

Enjoy!

Vitamin A: Prevents eye problems. Necessary for normal vision, immune function, and reproduction.

B-Vitamins: This group includes B-1 Thiamin, B-2 Riboflavin, B-3 Niacin, B-5 Pantothenic Acid, B-6 Pyridoxine, B-7 Biotin, B-9 Folic Acid, and B-12 Choline. Necessary to metabolize carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. Activates B-6 and folate, which is essential for red blood cell growth and maturity.

Vitamin C: Antioxidant that protects against cell damage; boosts immune systems; forms collagen in the body.

Vitamin D: Aids absorption and usage of calcium and phosphorous ; necessary for growth and calcification of bones and teeth. The best source is the sun.

Vitamin E: Acts as an antioxidant that protects cells against damage.

Vitamin K: Important for blood clotting and bone health.

Calcium: Essential in bone and teeth formation, muscle contraction, absorption of B-12, blood clotting, and growth.

Copper: Necessary for absorption, storage, and metabolism of iron; key to formation of red blood cells.

Iodine: Regulates rate of energy production and body weight. Promotes growth and health of hair, nails, skin, and teeth.

Iron: Hemoglobin and myoglobin formation, oxygen and CO2 transfer, red blood cell formation, and energy release.

Magnesium: Helps heart rhythm, muscle and nerve function, and bone strength.

Phosphorous: Helps cells to function normally. Helps your body produce energy. Key for bone growth.

Potassium: Important in maintaining normal fluid balance; helps control blood pressure; reduces risk of kidney stones.

Selenium: An essential trace element; protects cells from damage; regulates thyroid hormone.

Sodium: Primarily controls the body’s osmotic pressure, hydration, and electrical activities.

Zinc: Supports the body’s immune and nerve function; important in reproduction.

Protein: A necessary major nutrient in the diet, providing amino acids, which are necessary for growth and development.

Carbohydrate: Provides basic source of energy; stored as glycogen in all tissues of the body, especially the liver and muscles.

Fat: Also known as adipose tissue. Serves as an energy reserve.

Fiber: Aids digestion, helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

And here’s a free printable copy of the handout!

Whats In Your Food Handout

Looking for more nutrition education materials? Here are some of the newest resources to hit the store!

Digital MyPlate Poster and MyPlate Food Photo Collection

Sodium Math Handout

Floor Sticker: Make Your Salad a Rainbow

Shopping with MyPlate: A Handout

Balance your cart for a balanced plate!

Shopping with My Plate:

The food you buy has a huge impact on your eating habits. Make sure that the choices you make are healthful and balanced, starting at the grocery store.

What does that mean?

Well, since MyPlate advises you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, roughly half your cart should be full of fruits and vegetables in the store. Make lean protein choices, and select dairy foods that are low in saturated fat and added sugars. When it comes to grain foods, make sure that at least half of all the grains you’re eating are whole grains. Skip those processed grains whenever you can.

More Shopping Tips!

My Plate advises people to “Compare sodium content for similar foods, using the Nutrition Facts label to select brands lower in sodium.” The next time you’re in the store, grab a couple of different options for an ingredient and compare the sodium content. Choose one of the options with lower numbers.

Watch out for portion size! When you’re in the store, look at the serving size and number of servings in the food that you’d like to buy. Is it realistic? Will a sugary soda bottle really be used for 2 or 3 separate servings, or, despite what it says on the label, is the drink really going to be consumed all at once? Remember, MyPlate wants to help people enjoy food but eat less of it, counseling, “Avoid oversized portions.”

Here’s a printable MyPlate handout that you can use however you see fit!

MyPlate Shopping Handout

And here are even more MyPlate educational materials, fresh from the Nutrition Education Store!

Art of Health MyPlate Poster

Health Hopscotch Floor Sticker and Game

Salt and Sodium Poster

Nutrition from A to Z

It’s time for an exclusive look at the handout that accompanies our awesome Nutrition from A to Z poster! How will you use your free copy?

A is for Apples. An apple a day may be a cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. You see, apples are naturally fat-free and are very low in sodium. They are also excellent sources of fiber, antioxidants, and vital nutrients like vitamin C. Try one today!

B is for Balance. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines both emphasize the importance of balance in your life. Balance your calorie intake with physical activity, and balance your plate according to MyPlate’s proportion guidelines.

C is for Cooking. When you cook at home, you control exactly what goes into your meals. Cook healthfully with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat dairy.

D is for Dairy. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to choose low- or nonfat dairy when possible. The saturated fat found in dairy products is very bad for your health, especially your heart!

E is for Empty Calories. According to MyPlate, foods with empty calories are foods that contain solid fats and added sugars. They are usually calorie-dense, but these calories are very nutrient-light. Avoid foods with empty calories whenever you can — they just aren’t good for you.

F is for Fruit. MyPlate’s fruit group contains everything from stone fruits to berries to tropical rarities. Follow MyPlate’s advice and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

G is for Grains. MyPlate advises people to make at least half the grains they eat whole grains, every day. In a rut? Try a new whole grain like amaranth, bulgur, or quinoa!

H is for Healthy Eating Patterns. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans insist that healthy eating patterns should meet nutrient needs at a reasonable calorie level. Stick to nutrient-dense foods whenever you can.

I is for Include Seafood. Did you know that most people should consume at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week? That’s what MyPlate suggests. Just remember to keep seafood preparations lean and sidestep breaded or fried options.

J is for Juice. If you do drink juice, be sure to choose options that are 100% fruit or vegetables. Juice is a hiding place for a surprising amount of added sugars. Don’t fall into the trap! Choose 100% juice instead.

K is for Kids. Did you know that kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans posts that number as the minimum for most children, so get out there and play!

L is for Lean. When you go to get your servings from the protein food group, stick to lean options. Try beans, peas, white meat poultry, or lean cuts of beef or pork.

M is for MyPlate. Follow the plate! At each meal, half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with the rest divided equally between protein and grains. Add a bit of dairy too, and remember to keep things balanced!

N is for Nutrients. Most Americans aren’t getting enough nutrients. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should replace foods that are made mostly of empty calories with nutrient-dense foods. Nutrients of concern in American diets include calcium, potassium, vitamin D and dietary fiber.

O is for Orange. Oranges are a nutrient powerhouse. They are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. Eating oranges may also help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Try one today!

P is for Protein. MyPlate’s protein group is filled with meat, nuts, poultry, seeds, seafood, eggs, beans, and peas. Eat a wide variety of lean options daily.

Q is for Quality of Life. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Achieving and sustaining appropriate body weight across the lifespan is vital to maintaining good health and quality of life” (2010, page 8).

R is for Reduced Risk. MyPlate claims that eating fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of heart disease. That’s just one more reason to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.

S is for Sodium. Most people are consuming way too much sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to keep sodium consumption below 2300 mg per day. People who are African American, are over 51, or who have hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease should all consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day.

T is for Tomato. Tomatoes are filled with key nutrients to improve your health. They are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain fiber and several B vitamins.

U is for Unique. Did you know that beans and peas are unique foods? MyPlate counts them as both a vegetable and a protein, so tally them where you need them the most!

V is for Variety. While portion sizes should stay small, it is important to eat a variety of fresh and healthful foods. Don’t fall into the rut of eating the same foods over and over — you could be missing out on nutrients! Look for new and nutritious foods to try each day.

W is for Water. One of MyPlate’s key consumer messages is to replace sugary drinks like soda and sport beverages with water. Water is essential to health, and many people don’t drink enough of it.

X is for eXplanation. Do you want more details about healthful eating and balanced nutrition? Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information about MyPlate. Or, drop by www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines for a closer look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Y is for Yogurt. Yogurt is a great source of calcium, but make sure that it doesn’t overload you with sugar and fat. Stick to low- or nonfat options, and check sugar content to make sure it isn’t too high.

Z is for Zone. Keep foods out of the danger zone. Food that has been sitting out at 40-140 degrees F for more than 2 hours is no longer safe to eat.

Like what you see? Here’s the free handout! Normally you can only get this when you get the Nutrition from A to Z poster, but we’re making an exception for you today!

Nutrition from A to Z Handout

But wait, there’s more! Check out these great nutrition education posters that will help you look your very best, right now!

Nutrition Poster Set

Whole Grain Poster

12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Control Posters

Sodium Samples

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The author Janet Evanovich calls it the “Senior Buffet”.  Other folks call them the “sample ladies.”  I bet you know what I’m talking about. The folks who offer food samples at the big box stores.  Just wander the aisles of the store while shopping and graze along the way.I have noted that most of the time, the foods being sampled are the higher in calories, more processed and easy to prepare items.

It’s easy to eat eight to ten samples during one lap of the store. These sample ladies (and men) are very popular.  Samples are gobbled up by almost everyone.  Have you ever calculated how much food you’re eating on one of these shopping trips?  Or more specifically, have you looked at the sodium counts of the foods?

Since my husband has been on a healthier diet due to his heart disease he has really been watching the nutrition labels more closely.  One of the things he’s specifically checking out is the sodium content of the food.    I was proud of him last week when I heard him say “no, thank you” to several of the sample ladies.  The discussion in the car on the way home was interesting.  He asked me “did you know how much sodium was that French onion soup they were sampling”.  SMILE

Yes, I did notice.  One cup of soup had about 800 milligrams of sodium.  They were offering generous samples, I’m guessing they were  ¼ cup each.  If you’re counting that’s 200 milligrams.  Add to that:

  • 178 mg in a barbecued chicken wing
  • 172 mg from a 1-ounce sample of frozen pizza
  • 58 mg in an 1-ounce serving of prepared chicken Alfredo
  • 75 mg in a ¼ ounce sample of Romano cheese on a whole grain cracker

I admit those little bits don’t really seem like much. But if you add them up the total was 683 milligrams of sodium. And that’s just a few of the items they were sampling that day.  If I asked someone what they had to eat throughout the day, they would probably not mention the “senior buffet.”   This is sometimes called distracted eating—people eat because it’s there and then don’t even realize they’ve done it.

If you finished off your visit to the store in the food court with one of their inexpensive hot dogs (1750 mg) and a fountain diet soda (76 mg in 16 ounces) your whole shopping trip could have you consuming a whopping 2509 mg of sodium.

How much sodium should a person have in a day?  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines say that younger, healthy people without high risk for hypertension should reduce sodium to less than 2300 mg. It is recommended that some folks keep the sodium to less than 1500 mg/day.  This is a fairly large group of people (including my husband and my self). You fit into this lower group if:

  • you are over 51 years old, or
  • you have high blood pressure or hypertension, or
  • you have diabetes, or who have ever been told you are diabetic, or
  • you have chronic kidney disease, or
  • if you are African American.
Just a few samples and a hot dog and you’re well over the 2300 recommendation and way over the 1500 mg recommeded for this special group.

How can you thwart this sodium overload?

  • Avoid shopping during sample hours—it’s usually mid-day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Avoid shopping when you’re really hungry.
  • Read the nutrition label before you bite or buy.
  • Set a limit for yourself in numbers of samples you’ll eat before you enter the store.
  • Avoid purchasing prepared and processed foods.

What do we do?  Now, I’m not saying we’re perfect on this, it’s hard. These foods are tempting, most of the time they taste great and make food preparation easy.  It’s just another hurdle we’re trying to jump over.  But I think we’re getting there, one shopping trip at a time.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Check out the sodium education supplies in the Nutrition Education Store! They include include sodium education posters, sodium PowerPoint shows, sodium education displays, sodium brochures, and sodium handouts.

But wait, there’s more! Because we love you, we’ve set up a free sodium infographic for you to download. Get your copy today!

SodiumInfographicWhy

Do-it-yourself roasted chicken

Many folks grab a rotisserie chicken as a quick last-minute dinner decision. My investigation into these chickens shows that they can be a good financial decision dependent upon where you’re purchasing them and the net weight. Nutritionally they are higher in sodium than a home roasted chicken or comparable sized single-person frozen entrees or most restaurant meals. Depending upon the rest of your meals that day, the rotisserie chicken may quickly put you over the recommended daily amount of sodium.

It’s easy to roast a chicken at home if you have two hours. The “active” time needed is minimal. When you choose “do-it-yourself” you have control over the type of seasonings and the amount of added sodium. In addition to the sodium content, some people say that the seasoning in a rotisserie chicken may add “too much” flavor for some palates. You’re in control of this when you do-it-yourself.

Plan on roasting a chicken on the weekend when you’re home doing other chores. Refrigerate the whole chicken for a meal or two during the week. Financially this could save you money, especially if you can find the roasting chickens or whole fryers on sale. Another thought, while you have the oven on to bake the chicken, what else could be cooking at the same time? Baked potatoes? Baked squash? Baked apples?

Planning and preparing meals ahead can save you both time and money. Encourage the kids to help. This also gives them a “buy in” for what is being served, they may be more inclined to eat it if they helped plan and prepare it.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Rotisserie chicken: What’s the trade off?

In my last three articles about rotisserie chicken I explored both the good and the bad points of a rotisserie chicken.

The goods: it’s quick and ready-to-eat; if you’re a careful shopper the price is fairly reasonable; it is definitely cheaper than a restaurant meal!

The bads: nutritionally they are high in sodium; some chickens are not as large as they appear and you’re not getting the same value for a small chicken. Boneless chicken breasts could yield more meat per pound and may be less expensive when purchased on sale.

So does this mean you should never eat a rotisserie chicken again?

Couple options: someday when you’re not hungry or in a hurry, check the nutrition label and sodium content on rotisserie chicken at several different stores, glance at the net weights to compare to the price. This way, when you do want to buy one you’ll make good decisions on the size and sodium content and you can avoid those with the highest amount of sodium.

Also, remember chicken isn’t the only thing on the menu, too. Can you offset the amount of sodium by serving it with other foods that are very low sodium such as a plain baked or microwaved potato (24 mg. of sodium) and steamed-in-a-bag green beans (0 mg)?

On the other hand, how does it compare to a frozen dinner? A comparable baked chicken breast frozen dinner with mashed potatoes has 760 mg. of sodium.
Careful shopping and menu planning can include rotisserie chicken as part of your family’s meal plan.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus,
The Ohio State UniversityRoasted Chicken Photo

More than just simple roasted chicken

In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve been addressing the topic of rotisserie chicken. You can’t beat them for their convenience. But you know the saying, “if it’s too good to be true it probably is”. They aren’t just simply a roasted chicken.

While many companies label them no added steroids or no hormones, they all seem to have some added seasoning or flavoring. What’s in the seasoning? This tends to vary from store to store, but the items most listed are: salt, maltodextrin, natural flavors, food starch and spices.

These seasonings add more than flavor. Nutritionally, the major difference between a home roasted chicken is the amount of sodium in the final product. According to the USDA a roasted chicken contains 72 mg of sodium for 4 ounces of meat. The nutrition facts labels on several rotisseries chickens showed the sodium content ranged from 613 mg to 884 mg for the same amount of chicken.

The MyPlate recommendations for Americans on sodium say everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day. A small serving of roasted chicken can easily be a half day’s supply for most people.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University