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WHEE (Weight, Health, Eating and Exercise) is a community support diary for Kossacks who are currently or planning to start losing, gaining or maintaining their weight through diet and exercise or fitness. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are working on your weight or fitness, please -- join us! You can also click the WHEE tag to view all diary posts.

Life is improving for me after the long, cold, snowy winter, as spring advances and the weather improves out here on the desert of eastern Idaho.  I'll be back in Washington next weekend, hopefully diarying from a much warmer and sunnier locale, but for now, I'm still in the windward desert of the Rockies just west of Yellowstone.  Beautiful, forbidding, and chilly.

And my fortunes have improved now that I am consulting again, and that means - disposable income and a car.  Which means I had the money when I was invited to lunch, and here's where trouble began ALL OVER AGAIN.

Restaurant food is laced with salt and with MSG, both of which are anathema to my disease; and for those of you who think that eating out a few times a week is dealing with sodium appropriately, take a lesson from someone whose body is a living barometer of the sheer salt content of healthy restaurant food.

I'm not talking about McDonald's, KFC or Pizza Hut, folks.  I mean Applebee's Under 500 Menu, the clear broth soups, the grilled tilapia, Olive Garden's Caesar salads... there's no escaping the fact that every restaurant I went to USES SALT AS SEASONING.

Within 15 days I gained 10 pounds - and that's not fat.  My left knee, the bad one, for which I go to physical therapy and do special exercises to try to regain function and stop limping - swelled an inch and a half in circumference again.  And when I was invited to lunch Friday, I stuck with my sodium-free chili and low-salt Swiss cheese topping, because I had to start shedding this water before I ended up in frank danger once again.

It's the third day away from restaurant food and my knee has gone back to its smallest circumference, and so have my calves.  Not sure I lost all of that 10 pounds in the past three days but the dimensions are telling.

And what has this to do with you all?  Because I am extremely, pathologically sodium sensitive, my experience in eating at restaurants is a cautionary tale for those of you with high blood pressure, overweight, who have problems with bloating or who may yourself be sodium-sensitive.  The modern American healthy alternatives in restaurants are laced with sodium.  And it won't help you.

New guidelines on RDA for sodium are 1500 grams/day for women and 2200 grams/day for men.  Let me put that in perspective:

one can (two servings) of Chunky Beef stew has 843 grams of sodium.
one McDonald's Quarter Pounder - 730
Quarter pounder with cheese - 1330
Large french fries:  330

In other words, if you eat a quarter pounder with cheese and a large french fries - you have just exceeded your RDA for sodium.  IF YOU EAT NOTHING ELSE.

Here's a few more:

Plain bagel - 700
Wheaties - 1 cup - 280
Dill pickle - 359
Cottage cheese, 4 ounces - 430
New England clam chowder - 990

Now, considering that this food is generally manufactured, it is bad enough to buy American processed foods at the grocery store.

RESTAURANTS ARE WORSE.   They are seasoning food for hyperpalatability, and that means adding salt.  To everything.

Here is a very sobering statistic:

150,000 Americans Die From Too Much Salt

In a press statement released yesterday, AMA Vice President for Science,
Quality, and Public Health Stephen Havas, MD, MPH, MS, said, "The need for
immediate action is clear. The deaths attributed to excess salt consumption
represent a huge toll – the equivalent of a jumbo jet with more than 400
passengers crashing every day of the year, year after year."

"Excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension,
heart disease, and stroke," said Dr. Havas. "Research shows most
Americans consume two to three times the amount of sodium that is
healthy, with an estimated 75 to 80 percent of the daily intake of sodium
coming from processed and restaurant foods. Reducing the salt in our diets
by 50 percent over the next ten years could save at least 150,000 lives
each year."

Take it from someone whose life has been tragically circumscribed by the American propensity for overdosing food with hyperpalatable but deadly salt: start tracking it.  Particularly if you are being treated for hypertension, have had or do have problems with lower body or swelling in the hands and feet, sudden weight gain, or heart problems.  

Originally posted to louisev on Sun May 16, 2010 at 09:30 AM PDT.


Have You Measured Your Sodium Lately?

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