Low sodium

The past couple of months I’ve been practicing a low sodium diet. I have some worksheets from nutritionists but they haven’t been very helpful. There are several medical conditions that can benefit from a low sodium diet. Some medications affect the sodium balance in the body and need an informed medical professional to analyze ones personal situation.

Here are a few notes to share:

You can make a lot of progress by stopping the use of table salt and other forms of sodium chloride such as sea salt. The reason is that table salt is about 40% sodium by weight. After a while, I adjusted to not expecting a salt shaker next to the pepper. I have seen recommendations for spice blends to replace the salt.

One advantage to avoiding table salt is that it lets you be more consistent. When I used table salt, I couldn’t measure it consistently. (for example, I couldn’t know whether I used 1/8 tsp or just 1/10th or less). Taking sodium chloride out of my reach when I’m cooking and eating gives me room to fit in some medium sodium content foods.

When I am baking, I reduce the amount of sodium to add. I cut back on the salt, baking soda and baking powder ingredients. If I don’t, the sodium adds up. The totals could eliminate the advantage of baking my own food. I haven’t had any recipe failures because of a reduced use (but not elimination) of these big three sodium sources.

Another topic relevant to a low-sodium diet is dining out. It’s difficult to find low sodium options in a restaurant. The chefs’ include sodium in the recipes because it is a way to making their food more savory. In regular restaurants, the sodium content may not be documented. Fast food restaurants have substantial amounts of sodium in their recipes. Fortunately, fast food restaurants make their nutrition facts available online.

I must admit that some of the companies haven’t put a lot of thought into making the information useful. I think McDonald’s site is exemplary. Their website will summarize the nutrition facts of the combination of the foods you select. It enables you to track fat or sodium or carbs or any combination of nutrients because the site does the calculations. Other websites might need a pad of paper and a pen to get the total. There are websites that have tables with the nutrition contents of different foods, but I haven’t found them helpful.

One low sodium puzzle I haven’t solved is tomato sauces. Canned tomato sauce is high sodium. If you look at the total mg sodium per can rather than per serving, you can see that the sodium adds up quickly. I’d like to make spaghetti but must only make it very rarely to keep my average intake down.

In the grocery store, checking the sodium content can be an exercise. When you have an item on your grocery list such as breakfast cereal or salad dressing, there isn’t a fast rule for what to pick. I thought that the Chex brand cereals were good but when I checked they were actually pretty high sodium. Salad dressing takes effort to find the few that you can use. Even the same brand will have a wide range of sodium content for different dressings.

For a while I would write down how much sodium each item I eat has. Then, at the end of the day, I total the numbers. My goal isn’t to get a precise-to-the-milligram count of how much sodium I take. Rather the goal is to get a comparison from day to day. I’m ok estimating, say, how much peanut butter I used rather than knowing exactly.

Fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit are usually very low sodium. Canned vegetables are usually high sodium.

The doctor who encouraged me to start a low sodium diet thought that taking out the table salt would be enough. It takes more diligence than that. It’s worthwhile because it can help treat some diseases like hypertension.

Survey chimpanzee

Chimpanzee thinking


Saturday I got to play survey chimpanzee.

I got a call about 11:30 for a survey about health related questions from “clearwater res”. It said that it was partly due to a WHO or NIH study. It was pretty long. I gave permission for them to contact me later if they needed to.

Toward the end it had questions about how much of different foods that you had eaten. That part of the survey was very poorly designed because it asked you to estimate frequency on a day, week or month basis (your choice). That was confusing and hard to decide how to answer. I don’t see how you could combine those different counts in a valid way.

About 12 I got another call from “convergys corpo”. This was on food shopping habits. It asked me to compare the two different grocery stores that I spent the most money on. I was supposed to rate WalMart and Kroger about my experiences. This one wasn’t out of blue because I’ve done that survey multiple times. At the end they ask me “Would you be willing to participate again in no less than 3 months from now?” which I always answer yes. I’ve done it maybe 5 times now.

This survey’s weakness was that I tend to compress my ratings toward the top: “1 for terrible” and “10 for outstanding”. I never give a rating < 6 and very rarely 10.

A little after 1pm I got a call from "SSRS" which was surveying for, I believe they said, The Washington Post and another sponsor. Only the first question was open-ended. They asked what issue was most important. I said education and the problem of the high-stakes testing. Most of the questions seemed to be trying to gauge the conservative support for the hot-button issues and candidates.

The rest was annoying. Many questions were presented as Yes/No and no other answers possible. I had to say the liberal position on a bunch of them because I couldn't pick a middle ground option that was more accurate. I wasn't sure what to answer for religious preference since I'm completely inactive in my declared religion and haven't found a replacement yet. In the end, I just said the most recent one–the surveyor had to go searching to find it in their software.

I wonder how I got called cold for two surveys on the same day. "SSRS" also called last Friday but I was away. My only guess is they the two companies were using the same software to make the randomized choices and the got the same result: namely me.

It was funny when I got a second survey about 10 minutes after I was done with the first, but when I got the third, it was just bizarre.

[[Original Image]] [[By Photo by Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers (Nature Picture Library / Rex Features.)]] [[Image license: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]]