Top Three Foods for 2010

Meal Monday:

Here are my top three recommendations for nutritious foods to include in your in 2010 meal planning:

1. Broccoli: This leafy green vegetable is a good source of Vitamins A and C, antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from damage. Broccoli provides calcium, potassium, folate and fiber and contains phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. An added bonus – broccoli contains no fat, cholesterol or sodium, unless added during cooking.

2. Almonds: These nuts contain nutrients such as riboflavin, magnesium, fiber, iron, calcium and vitamin E, a natural antioxidant. Because almonds are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, eating small servings of almonds can help lower cholesterol levels. They are considered a “heart-healthy” source of fat. Almonds also contain vitamin E and phytonutrients, just like broccoli, and may help prevent against cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

3. Apples: Apples have no fat, cholesterol or sodium and contain small amounts of potassium, which may promote heart health. Eating apples can also help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and a healthy weight. They are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber such as pectin actually helps to prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessel walls, thus reducing the incident of arteriosclerosis and heart disease. The insoluble fiber provides bulk in the intestinal tract, holding water to cleanse and move food quickly through the digestive system. Don’t skip the skin; almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Eating the skin also increases insoluble fiber content.

Read my latest article in The News-Press: There is plenty of flavor after salt

Sodium you take in depends on choices you make

How can you add flavor without adding sodium?

The American Heart Association has issued dietary guidelines in efforts to warn of the dangers of high salt consumption. The AHA says that consuming less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day can lower blood pressure, prevent hypertension, help control hypertension, and prevent cardiovascular disease.

For people suffering from heart failure, eating too much sodium causes extra fluid to build up in your body. The increased fluid may cause swelling, shortness of breath or weight gain. Excessive salt intake has also been linked to stomach cancer.

The National Academy of Sciences recommends that Americans consume a minimum of 500 milligrams per day of sodium to maintain good health. Individual needs may vary depending upon genetics and lifestyle. Most Americans have no trouble reaching their minimum requirements. In fact, most Americans consume above the recommended amount required for proper bodily function.

If you have high blood pressure and heart failure, you should limit and monitor your daily sodium intake. People with other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may also need to make other diet changes as recommended by a physician.

It is also wise to limit sodium if you have liver problems or kidney disease. While the kidneys may efficiently process excess sodium in healthy people, those with kidney problems often have problems processing sodium, which can result in additional health implications.

Sodium is found in salt and a number of other foods and food products. Seasoning foods without salt during cooking and while eating can help decrease the amount of sodium in your diet.

Some high sodium seasonings and condiments to limit or avoid:
- Alfredo sauce, soup and other packaged sauce mixes.
- Barbecue, taco and steak sauce.
- Dry salad dressing mixes.
- Garlic, onion and celery salt.
- Imitation bacon bits.
- Meat tenderizers and sauces.
- Items with monosodium glutamate. MSG may be found in Chinese food, soy sauce and oyster sauce.
- Mustard, prepared horseradish sauce and ketchup.
- Pickle relish.
- Salt, seasoned salt, kosher salt, and sea salt.
- Soy, Worcestershire and teriyaki sauces. Limit low-sodium varieties because they still contain high amounts of sodium.
- Tartar, fish and cocktail sauce.
Some low-sodium herbs that can be used
- Basil, bay leaf, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, dill weed, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, savory and tarragon.

Some low-sodium herb blends that can be used:
- Chili blend: mix black pepper, chili powder, cilantro, cumin, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and paprika.
- Cole slaw blend: mix celery seed, dill weed, dried onion, sugar and tarragon.
- Italian food blend: mix basil, black pepper, garlic powder, ground red pepper, marjoram, oregano, savory and thyme.
- Onion herb blend: mix basil, black pepper, cumin, dill weed, dried onion flakes and garlic powder.

Some low-sodium spices that can be used:
- Cinnamon, cloves, curry powder, ginger, mace and nutmeg.

Some low-sodium seasonings that can be used:
- Chives, garlic (minced, powdered, or freshly chopped), lemon, onion (dried, powdered, or freshly chopped) and vinegar (such as balsamic, cider, flavored, red wine, or white).

How can I use food labels to choose seasonings that are low in sodium?
Reading food labels is a good way to learn how much sodium they contain. The ingredient list on the food label will tell you if the seasoning or food contains sodium. The food contains sodium if an ingredient has Na (the symbol for sodium), salt, soda or sodium.
Food labels list the amount of sodium in the food in milligrams.

What are some other ways to decrease sodium in my diet?
Fast food and packaged foods are often high in sodium. Buy low-salt or low-sodium foods when possible. Eat homemade or fresh foods and meals to avoid getting too much sodium.
Buy fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables or low-sodium or no salt added canned vegetables. Avoid canned, smoked, or processed poultry, fish, or meats. Limit cured meats, such as ham.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. Contact her at or