The Vegan Experiment: Day 18

Day 18

Breakfast:  Kashi Island Vanilla cereal, soy milk
Snack: Almonds
Lunch:  Tofu salad on whole wheat toast with vegan cheese, pretzels
Dinner:  Boca burger with barbecue sauce on a tortilla, corn, French fries, pineapple

With any healthful diet, there is a lot more food preparation required.  Whether you eat chicken on your salad or not, there is still the process of chopping, dicing, mixing and heating involved in preparing food.  People eat processed food for convenience.  You just grab it and go.  You may have to throw it into the microwave and do some heating, but it is still much quicker than preparing a meal from scratch.  I think that processed food is the downfall to our nation’s good health.  Most people don’t bother looking at food labels and if they do, they are really only checking out the calorie content and ignoring other key pieces of information, like sodium. 

For example, a Stouffer’s family sized lasagna has 320 calories and 850 mg of sodium per serving.  That doesn’t seem that bad until you put into perspective the size of a serving.  The box advertises that it feeds 5, but the nutrition data says that there are 7 servings in the box.   Odds are you aren’t going to eat 1/7th of that lasagna, which means that you are eating well over 350 calories for dinner.  That still doesn’t seem all that bad until you start looking at the sodium levels.

Sodium is the real shocker in this scenario.  While we’ve established that calorie content isn’t bad if that’s ALL you eat for dinner, but sodium for 1 serving is 35% of your recommended daily allowance.   That still doesn’t seem that bad even if you’ve only eaten that little slice that is 1/7th of the entire lasagna, but suppose you get the munchies while you’re watching tv later.   You grab a handful of pretzels thinking that it’s a good, low-fat snack.  Surprise! You’re consuming about 40% of your recommended allowance of sodium.  In just your dinner and 1 snack, you have eaten ¾ of the recommended amount of sodium.  If you had a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch (just 1 slice of ham and 1 slice of cheese!), you are now over your 100% daily allowance.  Adding in the other foods you’ve eaten that day, you have significantly exceeded your sodium intake. 

Every once in a while consuming a lot of sodium in one day happens.  The problem is that people are consistently exceeding that daily allowance.  High amounts of sodium can lead to high blood pressure which can lead to variety of other problems, most notably heart disease.  When you eat too much salt, the excess gets excreted in your urine.  However, when there is too much salt to be excreted it hangs out in your bloodstream and more water is added to your blood to dilute the salt.  Higher blood volume leads to higher blood pressure.

How does this discussion link back to processed foods?  Processed foods use sodium as a preservative.  That’s what enables a piece of prepared lasagna stay good until you thaw it and cook it.  Even foods like sodas contain sodium.  People need to be cognizant of not just what they are putting into their bodies but also what that stuff will do to them.  Knowledge is power, especially in preserving our health.


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