Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hypertension 18: Die-eting

To eat is to live. To diet is to, well, die-et.

Critical to reducing high blood pressure is dieting--especially reducing salt intake and the amount of calories and fat you chow down. Medical professionals can tell you better than I why both are necessary. I gather salt increases the amount of water you retain, which increases blood volume. Losing weight in general helps your heart.

Reducing salt would appear easy--just sprinkle less on your food. Hahahahhaha. Not so fast (fast--diet--get it?)! In our easy-out society, we love our prepared foods. We eat a lot of eats someone else has gotten ready for us. When I started to read the nutrition levels on the processed foods I ate, though: Ooops.

Sure, potato chips are a no brainer. Plenty of salt and fat, too. But what about Lean Cuisine and other 'healthy' frozen dinners? They are a 'healthy' choice in many ways--low in fat, good on fibre, limited portions, and so on. Tasty, too. However, each such meal can give you close to half your sodium intake per day--700 mg of sodium. And they are not very big. So you end up, when it's all added up, eating too much sodium.

A simple can of peas? Even that is close to 600 mg of sodium, sometimes more. And remember, the nutrition label's 'portion' size is about half the can of peas. Normally you eat the whole can--so you have to double what is on the label! And that is just one part of what you eat each day. When you add up an entire day's pigging out: watch out!

I learned, reading labels, the sad truth. What should be health, canned vegetables, have a big drawback: too much sodium. I found only a single brand of canned corn--Del Monte--which contained no sodium at all. The manufacturers claim they must add sodium to improve taste, but for me the saltless corn tasted just fine.

And I thought I was safe with processed cheese food. Okay, it is not even cheese, but it is 'no fat' and low in calories. But on checking the label, each slice had around 320 mg of sodium. With two or three slices of cheese per sandwich, or on an extra lean cheeseburger, that was, again, close to or more than half my sodium intake--just with the one meal!

And while eating the 'no fat' stuff seemed to be better, lemme tell you: it may have no fat, momma, but it still got them ol' calories.

Again, with processed food, the 'portion' on the label is often not the portion you actually eat. No one eats just one slice of cheese. No one eats half that can of beans. Who eats the 'portion' of 30 grams for most cold cereals? Usually you put double that in a bowl!

Sigh. Reading labels became very depressing. It was like water drop torture. One by one my favourite foods--and not the obvious stuff, like ice cream, chocolate or other no-nos--had to be dumped.

Yes...I'm coming to it...are you ready?...the WORST part of dieting was having to eat...sigh...real food!!

This is so unfair! North American culture does not raise us to eat real food!

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