Table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is the biggest source of sodium in our diets which when used in high amounts, can contribute to many health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Your sodium needs differ based on your age and health condition. General recommendations for adults and children 14 and over is 2000mg, which equals 1 teaspoon of salt daily. Foods that already have salt needs to be included in the 2000mg. The aim is to try to not go over your recommended daily sodium intake.
Salt makes your body hold on to water. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure. This means the more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. This puts a strain on your heart, arteries, kidneys and brain and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease.
When buying food, read food labels using this quick guide:
- A Low-sodium food has less than 140 milligrams per serving
- Moderate-sodium food: less than 400 milligrams per serving, which is about ¼ teaspoon
- High-sodium food: more than 400 milligrams per serving, which is more than ¼ teaspoon
Getting rid of a salt habit may not be easy but it’s not impossible. Start by training your taste buds to enjoy foods that are not salty. There are local, natural substitutes you can use for flavour. Try ginger, curry, onion, garlic, dried herbs such as bay leaves, rosemary, cinnamon or lemon. These can be used on meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups and salads. If you’re making a meat marinade for example, try orange or pineapple juice as a base instead of other packaged sauces found in supermarkets. Use less canned foods, but if you decide to use them; rinse before preparing to remove extra salt. The healthier choice would be fresh, frozen, no added salt or low sodium canned foods. Add less salt when cooking and don’t add salt to your food when eating. As you get used to the taste of food without salt, gradually lessen on the amount used when cooking. If you usually eat out, remember that some items like bread, cheese and some breakfast cereals may not taste salty but contain high amounts of sodium.
Liking salty foods is a learned taste so the key is to start with children. If they are trained with a diet that is low in salt, chances are they wont’s have a preference for salt and will grow to love the natural flavour of foods. Don’t add salt to food that is cooked for your baby. As your child starts eating the same food as the rest of the family, don’t add extra salt when cooking.
The aim is to reduce the amount of salt you eat as much as possible, not to keep an exact tally of the amount you eat. Just take the necessary steps to limit salt in your diet. Challenge yourself to cook without salt for two days a week at the beginning, then gradually increase the number of days. Instead, try seasoning and flavouring meals with local herbs and spices.
The old saying “food is medicine” rings true. Natural foods are loaded with essential nutrients that help keep you healthy and better able to ward-off illness. Eating foods in their most natural form means that you’ll lower your risk of chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and certain cancers. Natural means that the food is as close as possible to its natural state, unprocessed, free of chemical additives, artificial flavor or colour.
Unprocessed animal and plant foods provide the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for overall health. A perfect example is our local fruits, which when eaten natural, contain no added sugars but you will enjoy the benefits and taste of what is called “natural sugars”. Natural sugars are found in fruits as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose. Eating excess amounts of added sugar can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Fruits in their natural form also have high water and fiber content. Water keeps you hydrated and consuming fiber through whole foods will boost digestive function, metabolic health and helps with proper bowel movement. Eating a diet high in fibrous plants and unprocessed animal foods, may help reduce blood sugar levels in people who have or are at risk for diabetes. Once your body adjusts to eating whole, unprocessed foods, cravings for sugary, fatty, processed foods could decrease.
Natural foods are rich in antioxidants that may protect your cells against free radicals, preventing damage to your body and lowering your risk of infection and disease. Antioxidants can be found be plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and legumes. Omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats) can be found in natural animal foods such as salmon, herring and sardines. Avocados and nuts also contain healthy fats that helps fight inflammation and promote heart health.
Believe it or not, it is cheaper to eat natural, healthy foods instead of processed foods. This is because eating healthy improves your overall health and will lower your risk of chronic diseases. Therefore you may have to spend less money to treat preventable diseases like diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
Ever wondered why you feel thirsty? The body is made up of about 60% water and require bodily fluids for proper body functions. When you are low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. This starts a craving for water or liquid…and that’s why we feel thirsty and have a drink.
Water helps our bodies build muscle which are about 70% water and helps balance electrolytes like sodium, calcium and potassium in our body. It’s important to drink enough water when exercising to lubricate your joints and prevent injury while you’re working out and gaining muscle mass.
Water can also help you lose weight by breaking downfat and fat by-products that have accumulated in the body. Water acts as an appetite suppressant; so, having some water before eating is a great way to control how much you eat. Drinking water instead of higher calorie beverages will keep you healthier and increase your chances of losing weight.
Other significant benefits of water are that it helps with digestion, absorption, circulation, keeping your mouth moist and maintenance of body temperature. Water is also good for proper kidney functions, helps boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories and flushes toxins from our bodies.
Inadequate amounts of water in the body leads to dehydration, which can lead to constipation and other health complications along your gastrointestinal tract like urinary tract infection or kidney stones, especially in warm climates.
Here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water.
- Have a beverage before or after every snack and meal. Choose natural-flavored beverages you enjoy. You’re likely to drink more fluids if you like the way they taste.
- Eat more fruits and vegetable. Their high-water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods with high water content like fruits, vegetables, oatmeal and beans which are absorbed slower by the body.
- Keep a bottle of water in your car, at your desk or in your bag.
- Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories or living with diabetes, go for non-caloric drinks or water.
Remember that water is one of earth’s purest resources and the healthiest choice to quench your thirst.
The Grenada Food & Nutrition Council’s “GOOD FOOD IS WISE MEDICINE.” Preventing and living with Diabetes pt.1
Diabetes is a disease where the body is either producing no insulin, too little insulin or is unable to properly use the insulin produced.
Foods containing carbohydrates, like rice, provisions, fruits, milk, sweets and to a lesser extent vegetables, are broken down by the body to glucose. INSULIN is a hormone that helps your body use glucose for energy. When the body is unable to use glucose, blood sugar increases.
Type 1 diabetes occurs usually before age 40 and has a genetic link which causes the body’s immune system to turn on itself destroying insulin producing cells. People with Type 1 diabetes will require insulin therapy.
In Type 2 Diabetes, the body produces insulin but is unable to properly use it and usually occurs over age 40; however, younger people are increasingly being affected as factors such as overweight, obesity and inactivity are on the rise. Other risk factors: having family members who have diabetes, age 45 or older, women who develop diabetes during pregnancy (Gestational Diabetes), women who have babies weighing over 9lbs at birth and persons who were less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth (Low Birth Weight). Type 2 diabetes is treated with oral medications (pills) or injections, including insulin.
Pre- diabetes – risk of developing diabetes is increased. This means your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. You can delay or prevent diabetes by making life style changes.
WARNING SIGNS OF DIABETES: Feeling more thirsty or hungry than usual, frequent urination, unplanned weight loss, feeling tired, sight (vision) blurred, slow healing of cuts/ sores, mild high blood pressure (near 140/90), frequent infections (skin, urinary tract or vaginal).
Keeping healthy, preventing diabetes or controlling blood sugar will be influenced by what and how much you eat. Knowing which foods affect your blood sugar and portioning your food to allow some measure of balance is important.
Foods which will affect blood sugar are mainly carbohydrate containing foods.
Carbohydrate is either simple or complex. Itis the main source of energy for the body and the preferred energy source for the brain and nervous system.
Simple Carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugars; usually provide a lot of energy or calories, have little or no vitamins and minerals and are processed very quickly by the body. These foods have faster effect on blood sugar, will make you feel hungry faster and can cause you to eat more. Examples of simple carbohydrates are: Candy and soft drinks, Maltose in beer, honey and sugar. These should be limited.
Fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose (found in milk products) are also simple carbohydrates; however they provide valuable nutrients like: Vitamin C, Potassium and fiber from fruits and calcium, potassium, phosphorus and protein from milk, to name a few.
Complex Carbohydrates are starches made up of3 or more sugars, such as: Rice, root vegetable (or provision), dry beans and peas, bread, macaroni, fruits and vegetables. These provide lower calories, higher in fiber, are processed more slowly by the body, keep you feeling full longer and may decrease your total food intake.
White rice and white flour are processed or refined and will lack some of the natural nutrients like B Vitamins and will have less fiber.
To get more Complex Carbohydrates in your diet, use more: whole fruit, vegetables, whole grains like brown rice, dried beans, peas and lentils, root vegetables. These foods will allow you to get more fiber in your diet. Generally, most adults need about 25-30 grams of fiber daily and children 14 to 28 grams depending on their age and energy needs. Keep in mind that whether you’re having complex or simple carbohydrate, portion control is important. It is recommended that these foods should make up about 40-45% of your daily intake; some people have better blood sugar control on even less than 40%. It is best to include more complex and limit simple carbohydrates in your diet.
Remember that eatinghealthy foods in excess can be just as bad. For example, eating 6 slices ofwhole wheat bread at one meal can raise your blood sugar more than desired.