Monday, January 17, 2011

Sneaky Sodium

If you've seen my Sunday Food Prep and The Counter of Chaos™, then you know that I use broth regularly and in significant quantity. I wanted to address that today... not so much the broth itself, but the sodium in the broth.
I use broth in the crockpot, in my grains prep, and in any kind of pasta for the family. Cooking with broth is an easy way to increase flavor, and if you're not careful, hijack your sodium intake. There are many low-sodium broths available, but... be careful to read the labels.  Sodium is sneaky.

When reading a label, what are you looking for? First, the ingredients... if you see chemicals, put it back on the shelf. As always, clean eating is about eating actual food, not chemical concoctions or synthetic substitutes. It's a pretty safe bet that if you see an ingredient you don't recognize, you're better off without it. Google can be your friend when it comes to learning about ingredients you don't know.

Second focus on the label, sodium. How much sodium is okay? Not much! The FDA has changed the dietary recommendation for adults from "less than 3500 mg/day" to "less than 1500 mg/day". That's a huge reduction (and more than a little over-due!!). If you're eating out, you can easily get your whole day's supply of sodium (and waaaay more!) in just one meal!  If you're cooking, it's unfortunately easy to do the same.

For instance, if you're doing my crockpot sunday chicken (see the  Food Plan page)... you would add a carton of low sodium chicken broth to 6-8 chicken breasts and cook.

If I use a store brand available to me, here's what I would be looking at...
Kroger brand Low Sodium Chicken Broth: 580 mg/sodium per 1 cup serving.
Kroger brand Chicken Breasts: 320 mg per 4 oz serving

I have no idea how much sodium my chicken breasts now contain! Next, if I were to prepare my brown rice in that same "low sodium" broth, it's fairly safe to say that my sodium content is rising rapidly. Now let's say that I planned lunch to be one of those chicken breasts with 1/2 cup of that brown rice, and 1/2 cup of canned creamed corn...  I've just added 460 mg of sodium to what is already in my chicken and rice!  Yikes! Remember, we're looking to ingest less than 1,500 mg/day - not per meal.

Now, by reading labels, I've chosen these brands as my go-to's...
Pacific Natural Foods, Low Sodium Organic Free Range Chicken Broth: 70 mg/1 cup serving.
Fresh & Easy Market Chicken Breasts (no hormones/additives): 10 mg per 4 oz serving (contains only what is naturally occurring in chicken).

THAT'S why it's important to read those labels. Yes, the Pacific broth is more expensive (Kroger: $2.29; Pacific: $3.99). But that 510 mg difference in sodium makes it worth paying more. The chicken... is cheaper at Fresh & Easy! I pay $1.99/lb for clean chicken breasts! I don't know what prices are like where you live, but for me, that's a screamin' deal! You might not have a Fresh & Easy Market, but look around and watch for the sales. And above all else, read those labels! :-)

Here's an awesome slideshow about hidden sodium and what you can do about it:

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