Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hold The Salt

Who doesn't love salty food? Surely everyone gives themselves that treat from time to time of parking in front of the tv with a nice bag of chips, cheezies, or some other snack food of choice.

Or, maybe you like to go out for fish and chips...or chicken wings with a nice frosty bottle of beer, or something--ANYTHING--with cheese melted all over it. The saltier the better!

When I'd go for dinner at my inlaws house, all of them--my husband included--would reach for the salt and shake it over their dinners before they even tasted it first. I don't generally do this, as it used to drive my mother crazy if anyone salted their food before testing it out first. Still, if I go out for a rare steak, I can't seem to cram enough salt onto that thing. I also like to add a lot of salt to my homemade chicken soup. I figure this is okay, because I don't add a lot of salt to my other dinners. I also don't buy a lot of "convenience" food. I've also stopped buying the dehydrated, powdered, re-constitute with water soup mixes, because those things are loaded with salt.

When I was pregnant with my son, I couldn't get enough salt in me. Everything had to taste salty in order to be good, and it was a little embarrassing if I was out with other people, and I hoped they didn't noticed my four reaches for the salt shaker. Weird.

My family liked a lot of salt. Growing up, the food was already well seasoned, and all of us reached for that salt shaker anyway. Then, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I didn't really love the salt, so I didn't mind cutting way back on the stuff. Okay, good for me, right--I didn't buy a lot of processed foods, I try not to have too much junk food, I don't buy chips on a regular basis, and lately we'd been leaving the salt shaker off the table during dinner (and never even think of it at lunch). But oh, how naive to think that all the sodium we need to worry about is in the salt shaker!

So, now for the next two weeks, The Man is on a mandatory SODIUM FREE DIET. Oh wait, that's not entirely correct. That's just my emotional take on it. Actually, what he needs to be on is a LOW IODINE DIET. If you would like to read up on it, you can go HERE. You may recall me lamenting this several weeks earlier in A Needle In The Neck Is Not Good Times . Actually, time flies: it was back in July that we got the news that the nodule that was attached to The Man's thyroid was found to be cancerous. I went into panic mode, he stayed completely unphased. So, what happens in this instance is that to be on the safe side, he will be taking a dose of radiactive iodine. For two weeks prior though, he must starve his body of iodine with this strict diet. Then, he will be given an injection two days before to make him hypothyroid, and then he will be given a radioactive pill, which will ZAP any remaining thyroid cells, if any have been missed, thus killing any potential of residual thyroid cancer. Thyroid cells LURV iodine. He will also have to be quarantined at the hospital for three days, and he will then spend a week at his parent's where they must stay two metres away from him at all times, and not share a bathroom with him. Good times, no? Is The Man freaked though? No. Between you and I, I imagine he thinks it's kind of cool, like it'll turn him into a super-hero of sorts. The world doesn't need another Spider Man.

Okay, so let's get back to the low iodine diet. He must avoid all food with iodized salt, which is our basic table salt. So, to be on the safe side, as we read the labels of the food we buy and have in the house, we are avoiding anything that has any sodium listed.

So, how can you avoid foods with iodine? Well, according to this helpful pamphlet here from The Canadian Thyroid Cancer Support Group (Thry'vors) Inc.;

"Iodine comes from many food sources.
Iodine is found:

* in iodized salt and foods containing iodized salt

* naturally in many foods such as fish and other sea foods

* in dairy products, because iodine occurs naturally in milk and especially because the solutions used to clean cows and milking equipment contain iodine
* in foods coloured with red food dye (erythrosine/red dye #3)

So, if you're trying to avoid any food that has sodium listed in the Nutrition Facts label, what, pray tell, are you going to eat?

Well, no dairy. No store-bought bread, although there apparently is a salt-free rye bread out there made by Dimpflmeier. No butter--even the unsalted kind, because OOPS that's a dairy product. No egg yolks. Egg yolks contain iodine.

You can have fruit, and a variety of vegetables, but no frozen peas as they are soaked in brine during processing. Hmm.

You can have Kosher salt, but no sea salt, as that has iodine in it.

Okay, so, I attempted to make a dinner for The Man the other day with NO salt. We like curry dishes, so I made him a roasted curried dinner. I added potatoes, an onion, and a couple of chopped carrots, as well as 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I tossed them in olive oil, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, black pepper and a dash of fennel seeds. I was hoping that the onions, carrots, and chicken fat would add some flavour. Well, it smelled great, but I'm sorry, was PLAIN, PLAIN, PLAIN without the salt. And since I like cooking, I think food HAS TO HAVE FLAVOUR. He's so stubborn though and refuses to buy some Kosher salt. I was nearly begging him; "COME ON, pleeeeease! Just buy some Kosher salt...this nice roasted dish could be SO much tastier." Nope. He would not give in . I'd have bought it myself, were it not for my bum ankle. Sniff!

He's not even bothered by the diet. I'd be freaked! I practically have a PHOBIA of being hungry. I mean, what can he reach for quickly as a snack if he's hungry, and wants something a little more substantial (ie; with protein) than fruit?!? A handful of raw almonds, and a spoonful of salt-free almond butter, which has been languishing in the fridge for a while, because who knows what the hell to do with a whole jar of that stuff??? And so I leave him to his inner contest of strength and will power, but personally speaking, a roasted potato and piece of chicken with no salt on it makes me feel mildly revolted.

So, I got to pondering about salt. We eat a lot of it, apparently. If you're interested you can read this: Canadians Stuffing Too Much Salt In Diets, Stats Can Says . What's helpful in this article is that is provides a little chart with the recommended sodium intake vs age requirements. For instance, the max amount of sodium you and I should consume per day is 1500 milligrams (mg). Okay, so let's see here...according to the side of my salt package here, 1/4 teaspoon of salt = 550 mg. So, 1/2 tsp of salt = 1100, and 1 full teaspoon of salt = 2200 mg. Hrm... So, we shouldn't eat much more than a 1/2 tsp of salt. Okay, that doesn't sound like a problem, right? If you measure out a 1/2 teaspoon into the palm of your hand, hopefully you're not tossing that much onto your dinner every night.

And now, let's take a look at some of these nice little canned goods I have in my pantry here...

*reduced sodium chicken broth (per 125 ml, 1/2 cup condensed) = 670 mg sodium

*heat and serve beef ravioli in tomato sauce (per 1 bowl, 212 g) = 1030 mg sodium!!!!!! Holy CRAP. I never looked at the sodium in this thing before. This is a popular brand of macaroni products that I will not name, but I believe we all ate it as kids, and it's a popular favourite with my daughter. If a child's maximum recommended amount of sodium per day is 1200 mg, one little lunch nearly maxes out that requirement for the whole day!

Okay, so I loves me a salmon sandwich for lunch. I figure it's a great source of Omega 3, and I don't care if I'm doing myself a disservice, I pick all the flukey bits out; all the skin and bones. Yuck. So, anyway, let's see...

Pink Wild Pacific Canned salmon: per 1/2 can (106 g) = 500 mg. Okay, so I would eat 1/4 of the can for lunch and that would give me 250 mg of sodium. I haven't factored in the bread, but I'm not too bad I think.
So it's fairly obvious that this sodium stuff can really add up, especially if we buy the fun-looking, colourful BUY ME, BUY ME BUY ME crappy food that is geared to our children, and I can't even imagine what kind of salt festival it is when we go to McSaltnfat's for a meal, but I figure if I just keep avoiding a lot of this stuff, and not reaching for the salt shaker, I'll be okay.

But Iodine's GOOD for us! it helps our thyroid glands function, amongst other benefits. Read HERE.

But sodium is bad for us! From About The Negative Effects of Sodium:

A diet that is high in sodium can result in considerable health risks, including an elevated risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, which can lead to further complications, including kidney damage. Because proper kidney function is required to eliminate salt from the body, a decrease in productivity can have dire consequences. When the body is unable to control the amount of sodium that is being released, swelling can occur in the face and appendages. Shortness of breath can occur, as well as weakening of the heart muscle. This vicious cycle of events can be avoided by monitoring sodium intake.

Salt, however, is an interesting commodity. From the same article:

Since the dawn of civilization, sodium has been a hot commodity, and its uses date back to the Stone Age. Prehistoric cave dwellers thrived on a diet consisting of strictly fruits and vegetables without the incorporation of sodium into their daily living. Strangely enough, even though their diet did not consist of sodium, their bodies still craved it, and intense treks were mounted in search of sodium sources to satisfy the need. Later
cultures began to investigate the possible uses for sodium, and found that in the form of salt, sodium could be used as a preservative and seasoning for the meats that were slowly introduced into the human diet. As a result, the human body began to acclimate itself to the introduction of sodium in higher volumes, a trend which continued to grow as centuries passed. Unfortunately, the overuse of sodium has resulted in the human body's growing intolerance, negatively affecting the systems of the body and endangering overall.

Oh salt, how yummy you are. Still, I can't help but think how not long after eating a plate of super salty friend food, I typically can't get enough water into my body.

What's your favourite salty dish?


  1. I had a drive through salt attack at McDinks the other day. I had to wipe off each fry, and then shake my hand, thus flinging salt all over the car.

    It was horrible. I don't consider myself a salt lover. I never used it as a teen or kid.

    BUT, I do love chips. I bought a 60% less salt bag of chips the other day without knowing it and ate them and thought they were gross. I did get accustomed to them after awhile.

    After reading your blog, I realized we consume a considerable amount of salt without knowing it.

    I try not to buy too much processed food and am limited to frozen burritos for a quick lunch for the kids. The majority of the time it is fresh. Summer is the worst as we are on the go and need food in a hurry.

    I did not know about the peas...ouch.

    I am pretty frugal with groceries and end up making things from scratch the majority of the time, because in the end it is cheaper.

    I am going to have to check out this salt thing. Good post.

    I had no idea it was cancer. I thought it was benign, or was that you? Sorry to hear about that. It must be very scary for you considering what went on with your mum.

  2. well it was interesting, because at first I figured as I hunted around labels I'd be grossly over the daily limit, but since I don't buy too many processed or pre-prepared foods, I figured most days I'd be coming in around the right number, or not too far over. I mean, even if I add a little salt to my dinner, I don't imagine I'd ever be shaking half a teaspoon in--that'd be a lot eh? I was mildly horrified over the ravioli tub I buy for my daughter for those days I want to heat up lunch in less than a minute.

    Yeah, Jon had his thyroid removed in June, and in July they found the nodule that had been on it was cancerous. Women are more likely to get nodules on their thyroids, and have thyroid problems in general, but men have a higher risk of nodules being cancerous. So, chances are they "got it all," but to be on the safe side, he will kill off whatever remaining cells might be there.
    I have had two needle biopsies, and four ultrasounds now, which tells me there's been no change in size for the past couple of years. I'll go see a new specialist though in a couple of months, and perhaps yank my thyroid out anyway! We shall see! Thanks for your concern :)

  3. I used to scream when my hubby salted the food. Just a reaction to how his family ate. Now he never asks for the salt. His mom never new what spices were.

    I loved your wedding photo i did not get a chance to comment.
    I had a blast at your wedding!

  4. funny about the salt, Pam. I try not to reach for it at dinner, other than that, I really don't touch it.
    As for my wedding pic--thanks. I have to agree that I thought our wedding was super fun.


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