Calories have always been a hot topic when talking about nutrition and health. Today, explore the good and bad of sodium in our nutrition spotlight.
Calories in versus calories out has long been regarded as the best method for sustainable weight control. However, over the past few years people have been looking past the caloric values of foods and focusing more on other nutrients. This Nutrition Spotlight series dives into some of the more controversial nutrients that have been highlighted in the recent release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. We will take you through the science of each nutrient, what public health officials are doing to address Americans’ consumption, and what part the foodservice industry plays in helping their consumers fit within the dietary recommendations.
First up in the nutrition gauntlet is sodium. With the FDA’s voluntary sodium restrictions looming on the horizon and New York City’s enacted sodium warning system for restaurants, it’s clear that the sodium debate won’t be over anytime soon given its serious public health implications. However, limiting a chef’s ability to season their food may seem like an impossible task. Finding a happy middle ground between delicious and heart-healthy is a big goal in the Dietary Guidelines and has major implications for restaurant-type food.
Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for a healthy, functioning body. However, an excess of sodium in the diet can result in a slew of health problems, most notably being high blood pressure. The recommended daily value of sodium is 2,400 mg for the average, healthy adult. The American Heart Association makes an even lower recommendation of 1,500 mg of sodium per day. However, despite these recommendations, the average daily amount of sodium consumed by an American adult is 3,440 mg (according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines). With such a large disparity between recommended consumption and actual consumption, it’s worth a look into the main sources of dietary sodium.
Sodium is found in a variety of foods as it has both flavoring and preservation properties. More than 75% of the sodium consumed in the typical American diet comes from processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods. That was a key reason why New York City decided to implement its newest public health legislation requiring restaurants with more than 15 locations to put warning symbols next to any menu items that contain more than 2,300 mg of sodium. The FDA is also jumping in and has plans to release voluntary sodium restriction guidelines for the foodservice industry. It’s not clear what the impact of these voluntary guidelines will be once they are released, but health officials are hoping that it’s a step in the right direction when it comes to reducing the country’s sodium intake.
If a restaurant or other foodservice establishment is looking to reduce the sodium in their menu items, the first step is determining where the nutrient is located. This can be done by completing a full nutritional analysis. Once the analysis is complete and the sodium values are determined, trained professionals can help locate which ingredients contribute the most sodium and offer suggestions to reduce those values, including product substitutions or changes to cooking procedures. Cutting sodium can be a great publicity move for a restaurant or other foodservice establishment, all while helping protect the health of consumers.
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