Watch Out…It’s Everywhere!

Since starting the blog, I’ve been looking even more closely at nutritional labels. Basically, I don’t want to post anything without knowing exactly what it is, and what’s in it!

Mostly, I’ve been on the up-and-up as far as knowing what I’m cooking with and therefore fueling my body with. At least until last week. I was beginning a post on Home-Made Hot Pockets, these delicious little pockets of love that I make for quick suppers or lunches, and as I was writing, I was looking up nutritional information on regular Hot Pockets, as a means of comparison.

As expected, Hot Pockets are full of cholesterol, fat, calories and sodium. This is why I wanted to share my home-made recipe. Well…turns out, home-made doesn’t always mean healthy…or even healthier. Heard that before somewhere? Click, here, to read  my story about home-made meals and the importance of knowing what you’re fueling your body with.

When I looked up the individual nutritional labels for all of the ingredients I was using for my home-made version…the finished product, turns out, is worse than the brand-name Hot Pocket.

Yikes!

Moving on…seeing the values for my recipe made me think about everything in my pantry. I’ve cut out a ton of processed foods over the last 5 years…but certainly still use some staple pantry items. I was curious at what their values would show me. So…I went digging…and was astonished.

Here is what I checked out:

Grands Biscuits

Pancake Mix

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (the wee ones love the stuff)

Prego Spaghetti Sauce (I use it as a base)

Canned Tomato Soup (for dipping grilled cheese sammies)

Cottage Cheese

Seasoned Bread Crumbs

What did I find? Obviously refined carbs, sugars, some cholesterol, calories and fat but the main culprit of concern for me was…sodium content.

I’ve read before that processed (i.e. ready-to-go) foods are the main source of extra sodium in our diets…but until I really went digging, I had no idea how much sodium that actually was.

Here is the sodium content on the above referenced food products:

Grands Biscuits – 1 Biscuit – 580 mg

Pancake Mix – 2 small pancakes – 560mg

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese – 1 Serving – 600 mg

Spaghetti Sauce – 1/2 cup – 480 mg

Canned Tomato Soup – 1/2 cup – 530 mg

Cottage Cheese – 1 cup – 918 mg

Seasoned Bread Crumbs – 1/4 cup – 540 mg

Wow right?! These are items I use to cook with or serve my family regularly.

Sodium is a very important part of our daily fuel. We require sodium in our system to maintain a healthy water and mineral balance. The problem is, most of us have way  too much…all the time.

The smarties at Mayo Clinic suggests that we consume between 1500 and 2000 of sodium mg per day, to allow our bodies to function properly. Their research shows that the average American actually consumes about 3400 mg per day. (Click, here, for Mayo Clinic’s research.) That’s twice what we should be eating…and with the sodium content in some of our favorite pantry items…it’s no wonder!

The effects on our systems from too much sodium include:

  • Elevated risk of heart disease and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue

Any of those sound familiar? I know I battle the bottom two bullets every now and then! I also know after researching, that I too am consuming way too much sodium. It really surprised me because I rarely put salt on anything I cook. Turns out…it’s hiding…everywhere. Good thing we’re all super smart monkeys though…because all it really takes is a quick look in the pantry! I sure learned a lot!

The bottom line goes right back to what I’ve written about in the past; food is anything that has or had a mother or anything that grows out of the ground. Anything else has man-made properties and (as I’m learning more and more) is full of little surprises…like sodium.

I’ve not recently seen any biscuit trees or pancake farms, let alone a Kraft Mac-n-cheese patch, in a very long time.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a series of Processed to Whole posts where I’ll take something that I use weekly (from the above processed food list) and show you how to make it home-made, from scratch, in hopes of greatly reducing the sodium (and fat, calories and cholesterol) content of the food. It’ll be a learning experience for us all…I’m very excited! I promise to only use recipes that are quick and user friendly…I don’t have all day to get pancakes on my table either! 🙂

Stay tuned!

Does anyone have any amazing home-made recipes for any of the processed foods I listed above? Send them my way! I’ll get a better version of my home made Hot Pockets up asap as well!

One Comment to “Watch Out…It’s Everywhere!”

  1. I learned something interesting about sodium and high blood pressure. Turns out that sodium may not be the primary cause of high blood pressure. There is much stronger evidence for high BP being caused by a condition called hyperinsulinism, which is where your fasting insulin is elevated above normal, never drops to normal after meals, etc. It is a major culprit in the development of obesity (in some people; others never get fat at all because their tissues become insulin-resistant in a different order, fat cells and then lean tissues) and also type 2 diabetes.

    It seems that when insulin is elevated it signals the kidneys to hold on to sodium. Someone who has high insulin and then eats a lot of salt observes that the salt-eating leads directly to their BP rising. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t check for insulin levels, so all these poor people know is that they ate salt and now their BP’s up.

    I learned that African-Americans are more likely to have hyperinsulinism and to be insulin-resistant than their white American counterparts, the most likely explanation for their higher rates of high blood pressure and hypertension-related kidney damage.

    If I’m watching my carb intake (the macronutrient most responsible for chronically elevated insulin), I find I *must* eat salt because I don’t hold on to it! I also don’t have BP problems. I’m still just a little over 200 pounds at 5’7″, got a way to go on my weight loss, and yet my typical blood pressure readings seem to better belong to someone 50 pounds or more lighter than me. I think last time it was 100/50-something, about a week ago at a followup appointment. I bet I startled the nurse, in a good way.

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