Not to Ruin Your Day, but Meat-Free Burgers May be Full of Sodium8 months ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. And for many adults, sodium intake should be no more than 1,500 mg. But on average, Americans eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day, with more than 70 percent of this sodium coming from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods (not the actual salt shaker).
Sodium is an essential mineral which our bodies need to stay healthy. It is an electrolyte that helps regulate blood pressure and enable muscle and nerve cells to function properly. But consuming too much sodium may increase the risk of developing heart disease.
“In most people, the kidneys have trouble keeping up with the excess sodium in the bloodstream. As sodium accumulates, the body holds onto water to dilute the sodium. This increases both the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream. Increased blood volume means more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels,” according to Harvard Health.
This extra work and pressure can cause the blood vessels to stiffen. All this can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. There is also credible evidence that too much sodium may damage the heart, aorta and kidneys without increasing blood pressure. Excessive sodium may even be bad for bones.
Many people simply may not be aware of the true amount of sodium they actually consume. This may be due to the fact that they generally do not read the sodium information present on nutrition labels when buying store bought foods, like cereals, pasta sauces and salad dressings. It is also usually difficult to gage how much sodium they consume when they dine out. And even more alarming is that many ‘health foods’ are actually very high in sodium.
Take, for example, meat-free burgers. Whether it’s to adopt a vegan lifestyle or cut back on meat intake, many people are turning to meat-alternative, plant-based products.
A recent report suggests that recently, there has been a 23% sales increase in plant-based meat sales, and 12% of households across the U.S. purchase plant-based meat.
And although cutting back on meat may be beneficial to your health (if you go meatless just one day a week for a year, you may reduce your risk for certain diseases including cancer, heart disease and more), a recent survey conducted in the U.K. suggested that a lot of meat-free burgers contain more salt than real meat burgers, and just way too much salt in general. Some of the meat-free burgers even contained more salt than seawater!
The survey evaluated “157 meat-free products from major retailers.” More than “a quarter -- 28% -- of meat-free products had higher salt levels than guideline targets set by Public Health England.”
“According to the survey, the saltiest meat-free product was Tofurky's Deli Slices Hickory Smoked [which are also widely sold in the U.S.], containing 3.5 grams of salt -- approximately 30% more than the salt found in 100 grams of seawater, which is 2.5 grams,” reports CNN.
This survey is a reminder that processed foods, whether they contain meat or not, usually contain a high amount of sodium. This is because sodium extends the shelf life and makes them taste good. If you stick to whole, unprocessed foods and save your source of sodium for the salt shaker, you will likely have better control of your sodium intake.
And Don’t Forget Potassium.
A good balance of sodium and potassium is necessary to stay healthy and maintain the right balance of electrolytes in the body. Increasing your potassium intake while reducing the sodium intake in your diet may improve hypertension and help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age. It may even reduce your risk of stroke. Most adults need about 4,700 mg of potassium per day, but many Americans do not consume nearly enough to maintain the right balance of sodium and potassium. Some whole, plant-based sources of potassium include bananas, sweet potatoes, black beans and cherries.
Other blood-pressure lowering nutrients include calcium, magnesium, vitamin C and more.
Build Your Own Meat-Free Burger.
It takes more work than buying a packaged burger at the store, but making your own meat-free burger from scratch is a great way to eat plant-based and control your sodium intake. Check out this mushroom veggie burger recipe. It looks delicious and contains other plant-based, nutrient-dense foods, like onion, garlic, cumin and parsley.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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