Limit sodium to ward off osteoporosis

Eating Well

June 11, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Reduced sodium diets are yet another weapon in the war against osteoporosis.

Researchers have often shown that eating more sodium increases calcium lost in urine. But does that mean calcium is being lost from bones? Yes, according to researchers at the University of Western Australia.

Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter reports that the two-year study of 100 postmenopausal women found that those who ate the most sodium lost the most bone from their hips and ankles. So they were at greater risk for fractures.

Check the bottom of your Nutrition Facts food label. You'll find the recommended daily limit for sodium is 2,400 mg. In the study, women who stuck to that limit required 1,200 mg of calcium to maintain their bones. But women who averaged 3,000 mg/day needed 1,700 mg of calcium to break even.

In the U.S., only 25 percent of women consume the RDA of 800 mg of calcium daily. Most check in at 400 to 600 mg daily. And sodium intakes range from 3,000 to 7,000 mg daily. In the calcium/sodium balancing act, this is bad news.

Clearly, any woman who intends to navigate later life standing tall and feeling sturdy is going to have to take action.

Many factors other than sodium affect bone loss, of course. Too much protein can decrease bone strength, while adequate exercise, calcium and vitamin D help maintain bones. In addition, hormone replacement therapy has a profound effect on preventing calcium loss, and several new drugs are being studied for their effect on maintaining or increasing bone calcium.

But when it comes to the sodium factor, putting away the salt shaker is a start. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,000 mg of sodium, close to the day's limit. So cut the salt from the pasta, potato or rice cooking water. Take the shaker off the table. And watch other cooking ingredients, too. Soy sauce delivers more than 1,000 mg of sodium per tablespoon. Accent, Old Bay, Worchestershire sauce, lemon pepper and bouillon are high fliers, too. Anything with "salt" in its name, like garlic salt or onion salt, and even "all natural" sea salt will deliver a wallop of sodium to your meal.

Feel free to use all the onions (including onion flakes and onion powder), garlic, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chives, herbs and spices your palate can handle. Red and white wine are great for cooking and marinades, but avoid cooking wine, which has salt added.

Citrus, both juice and peel, including orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit, increases the sharpness of food so you don't miss the salt.

And anything hot is a big help. Experiment with pepper, including black, red, pink, green, white and blends. Chilis and horseradish add warmth, but use fresh. If youget them from a can, bottle or jar, check the label for sodium.

Also, relax and enjoy all the fruits and vegetables you want.

But watch the dip or dressing, which can range from 5 to 300 mg per tablespoon. Low-calorie dressings are often higher in sodium than the original, but there are numerous "healthy" versions with lower fat and sodium totals.

You can easily mix your own oil and vinegar blends, and vary the taste by switching among small amounts of olive, peanut, sesame, walnut, and corn oils to control calories. Mix and match your naturally calorie-free vinegars, too. Try cider, tarragon, balsamic, red wine and white wine vinegars. Mix your own dips using low-fat mayo or sour cream as a base, then add plenty of garlic, onion and herbs.

But the big test arrives with processed foods, where sodium is the ingredient of choice for tempting your taste buds.

Check your cereal. Quick-cooking oatmeal, shredded wheat and several new multi-grain cereals are sodium free. Others, like Total or corn flakes have about 400 mg of sodium/serving.

Check your soup. Campbell's Chunky Chicken Noodle has 1,090 mg/serving. Their Healthy Request drops down to 460/serving.

Have a look at your pasta sauce. Ragu Chunky Garden Style Super Mushroom provides 500 mg/half-cup. Their "Today's Recipe" offers less, 350 mg/half cup.

And when it comes to dessert, Dannon Light chocolate nonfat yogurt has 55 mg of sodium, while three Oreos have 115.

By careful label reading and clever substitutions, you can chip away at your sodium score without much bother.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 6/11/96


If you are at least 40 years of age, at least five years past menopause and have been taking estrogen for at least one year, you may be a candidate for an osteoporosis study being conducted at Union Memorial Hospital. For information call Charles Smith, (410) 554-6782.

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