Filed under: Diet
Sodium—found in table salt, kosher salt, and most sea salts—is an essential mineral your body uses to control blood pressure, help your muscles and nerves work properly, and balance fluids. However, it’s important to watch your sodium intake because it can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.
On average, Americans (ages 1 and older) consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium every day, mostly in the form of salt. But the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—roughly the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The Guidelines also recommend that those who are “salt-sensitive”—older adults, African Americans, and people with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease—limit their sodium intake to about 1,500 mg per day.
Most Americans get more than 75% of their sodium from prepared and processed foods, including tomato sauce, soups, gravies, canned foods, bread, frozen pizzas, snack foods, and salad dressings. Sodium adds flavor and helps preserve prepared foods. It enhances food color and gives it a firmer texture too. Many restaurant foods also are high in sodium, but you can choose low-sodium items when they’re available.
What’s the best way to reduce your sodium intake?
- Eat whole foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, unsalted nuts and seeds, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
- Check the Nutrition Facts panel on all packaged-food labels to compare sodium amounts in foods and drinks.
- Choose low-sodium, reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added products whenever possible.
Check with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian about whether you need to reduce your salt intake. To learn more about how to reduce sodium in your diet, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page.
Posted 17 April 2017
If you’re trying to understand the labels on food packaging or articles about nutrition, you might wonder about some of the terms and abbreviations you come across. The “alphabet soup” of acronyms can be confusing, but this article might help.
Nutrition experts at the Institute of Medicine—or IOM—of the National Academies of Sciences developed the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRI, based on extensive statistics. The following terms and acronyms are from these guidelines.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of a nutrient is the daily amount that essentially all healthy people need, depending on life stage and gender. For example, the RDAs of some nutrients (such as vitamin C) for a 13-year-old boy are very different from those for a 25-year-old pregnant woman. It isn’t always the same as the Daily Value (DV) you see on food labels, but it’s usually close.
The Adequate Intake (AI) is the adequate daily amounts of a nutrient that healthy people of a particular life stage or gender need. AIs are given when there isn’t enough scientific evidence for a stronger recommendation, that is, an RDA. For example, IOM suggests an AI for one type of omega-3 fatty acids—alpha linoleic acid—of 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women because scientists don’t know yet how much is optimal.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) are the highest daily amounts of nutrients that you can consume without risk of toxicity. Many vitamins and minerals—even essential ones—can be toxic when consumed in excess. For example, because too much vitamin A can cause liver damage, a UL has been established for this essential nutrient.
You generally can meet all your daily nutrient intake goals (RDAs and AIs) by following a healthy diet that includes lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. So try to remember to get your RDAs and AIs every day, but don’t exceed the ULs!
Updated 10 April 2017
Is what you’re eating helping or hindering your performance? If you’re feeling low in energy, underperforming in the gym, or struggling through your workday, then choose better “fuel.” Go for Green® (G4G) makes it easy to find high-performance foods and beverages to boost your fitness, strength, and health. Look for DoD’s revised G4G initiative in your dining facility or galley to help make nutritious choices that fuel your body and mind, optimizing your energy and performance.
G4G labels foods and beverages with a stoplight system—Green, Yellow, and Red—to identify your best choices for peak performance. Foods are labeled with Low, Moderate, or High sodium symbols to point out sodium content too. Use these tips to build your energy-boosting plate:
- Aim to fill half your plate with Green-coded foods. You can find healthy, Green-coded choices in every food group: grains, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and dairy.
- Eat consistently to keep your energy up. For best results, include Green-coded foods and drinks with every meal and snack—and stick to a schedule when possible.
- Make nutrient-rich foods the easy choice at home and work. You’re more likely to eat what’s easily available, so choose foods that make you want to get up and go. Stock your fridge with Green-coded items, fill your kitchen cabinets with minimally processed foods, and keep a stash of healthy snacks in your desk drawer.
Enjoy a flavorful diet, feel healthier, boost your performance, and lower health risks with the “African Heritage Diet.” The ancestors of African Americans brought wonderful food traditions to America, but many of these traditions have been lost over time. And health has suffered as ways of eating have changed.
African Americans struggle with high rates of obesity, putting them at a disproportionally higher risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers. The good news is you can improve your health and performance by including the African Heritage Diet principles in your healthy eating plan—whether or not you’re African American. Keep reading to learn more about this diet. Read more...
One of the best ways to start losing weight or just improve your nutrition overall is to keep track of what you eat and drink every day. You probably have seen all the advice about eating well-balanced meals—from the amounts you should put on your plate at meals to the recommended amounts of essential nutrients you need every day. But how do you raise your awareness about what you eat and drink? And how can you keep track of whether you’re meeting your nutrition goals?
Try keeping a food diary. There are lots of online resources and apps to help you do this, but one worth exploring is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) SuperTracker. It actually offers several tools to help you track your diet, get nutritional information on more than 8,000 foods, manage your weight, track your physical activities, access a “virtual coach” to meet your goals, and more. You can create a personal profile to save your information and develop a personal plan, or you can use the “general plan” for one-time use.
If you’re looking for more detail about the nutritional content of what you eat and drink, check out the USDA Food Composition Databases. This website contains detailed nutrient information for more than 180,000 branded and generic food products. Need to get more of certain nutrients in your diet? More vitamin B-12? Or more protein? There’s a search engine to help you find what foods provide the ones you’re looking for. You can even specify what type food or which meals you’d like information about.
Be prepared so you can make smart choices the next time a snack attack hits. Most people have a “snack drawer”—whether it’s in their office desk, gym locker, backpack, or car. Snacking can be an important part of your meal plan, preventing late-afternoon vending machine runs or overeating at mealtime. Snacks also can provide crucial nutrients before workouts or missions.
A healthy snack provides 100–300 calories, depending on your weight and activity level. Try to stock your snack drawer with a variety of nutrient-rich snacks.
- Choose lean proteins. Select water-packed tuna in single-serve pouches or nut butters. Or choose walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. If you have an office fridge, stock it with boiled eggs (up to one week) or single-serving cups of hummus, cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt.
- Pick healthy carbs. Options include instant oatmeal or grits, whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, and dried fruit.
- Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. Stock up on cut-up celery or cucumbers, baby carrots, and apples.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water (flavored with slices of lemon or cucumber), herbal tea, milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Or eat juicy fruits such as watermelon, oranges, and kiwis.
Follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommendations on consuming foods and drinks too. And be mindful of portion sizes. Make sure to visit the MedlinePlus page to learn more about healthy snacking.
Is your New Year’s resolution to try to lose weight, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplement might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, consider this: Dietary supplements marketed for weight loss are categorized “high-risk” products. The Food and Drug Administration has found many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss to contain hidden drug ingredients or other ingredients that haven’t been adequately studied in humans.
Not only are they potentially unsafe, weight-loss supplements that advertise “quick fixes” likely won’t help you meet your goals. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The holiday season can be a challenging time to eat sensibly as food is everywhere you turn. The practice of “mindful eating,” a form of mindfulness, can help you stay the course. It means being more aware of your eating habits, eating cues, and sensations. When you eat mindfully, you learn to savor your food with all your senses and become aware when you’re full. Try these mindful eating tips this holiday season and all year long!
- Come prepared. Many tend to overeat during social gatherings because it’s easy to be distracted by all the food choices. When you first arrive at a holiday party, go on a reconnaissance mission and see what’s available. Choose carefully between what you’ll eat, sample, and avoid.
- Recognize feelings of hunger and fullness. Try to understand the reason you want to eat. Is it true physical hunger? Or do you tend to eat when you’re stressed? Perhaps you saw or smelled something delicious, and now your stomach is rumbling. Eat only when you’re hungry. And avoid skipping meals because you have a holiday party later in the day. Try to eat a light meal or snack before you head out too. If you wait until you’re starving, you’ll likely end up eating twice as much. After you’ve had your first helping of food, wait 10–20 minutes to determine if you’re still hungry.
- Enjoy your food. You can have your favorite dessert and eat it too! All foods can be eaten mindfully. First, choose a sensible portion size. Then eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites. Enjoy the taste, texture, smell, and sight of your food too. Mindful eating also teaches you not to be judgmental about your food choices—there’s no right or wrong way to eat!
It’s easy to think, “I’ve overindulged,” and continue to overeat. Still, mindful eating can help you maintain healthy habits this holiday season!
Before you gobble up your Thanksgiving dinner, consider starting your day off with a calorie burn! Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race—Turkey Trot, Drumstick Dash, or Gobble Gait—and most are family friendly.
If you’re prone to “holiday stress,” particularly if you’re hosting, it can be a great way to relieve some tension and mentally prepare for the day ahead. If you’re not up for the race crowds, or there isn’t a race nearby, there are lots of other options for getting in some exercise. Find a quiet road for a quick run, go for a bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat.
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you to all service members and their families too.
Garcinia cambogia, a pumpkin-like fruit, is a popular dietary supplement ingredient in products marketed for weight loss. Although Garcinia cambogia has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for quite some time, the latest scientific research still hasn’t proven its effectiveness. To learn more, read the updated Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Garcinia cambogia.
If you’re looking for ways to lose weight, OPSS and HPRC always recommend choosing foods first before considering dietary supplements. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, where you’ll find joint-service and service-specific programs to help you achieve your goals.