How Much Sodium is Too Much?

| 1 min read

Chuck Gaidica with Kristian Hurley



About the Show
On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, as well as Kristian Hurley, senior director of community impact for the American Heart Association. Together, they discuss the short and long-term effects of a high-sodium diet.
“Americans are getting way more sodium in their diet than they need… If you get an excess of sodium in your blood, it can help to cause high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a huge driver of whether or not someone’s going to have a heart attack or a stroke” – Kristian Hurley
In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:
  • Hidden sources of sodium
  • How sodium affects the body
  • The dangers of table salt
  • How to avoid the “Salty Six”
  • The importance of reading labels
  • Restaurant vs home cooked meals
Blue Cross members: click here to sign up for your online member account.

Listen on

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, Episode 43. Coming up, we discuss sodium in our diets. Yeah, it’s in yours.
Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s a podcast dedicated to navigating how we can all improve our health and well-being, if we just start practicing small healthy habits that we can start implementing right now.
Chuck Gaidica: I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica. Every other week we’ll sit down with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and some other wonderful guests, and we’ll cover topics like nutrition, fitness, a whole lot more.
Chuck Gaidica: In this episode, we’re talking about the impact of eating too much sodium, and ways we can reduce the intake. And you will be surprised as to where you will find this. It’s not just the salt shaker, right?
Chuck Gaidica: With me today, registered dietitian, certified health coach and certified diabetes educator, Grace Derocha, lady about the state, mom, wife, and she knows how to cook, and she’s funny and she knows how to dance. I don’t know, she’s, it’s… You’re like a quadruple threat.
Grace Derocha: Don’t tell anybody that.
Chuck Gaidica: Hey, good morning.
Grace Derocha: Good morning.
Chuck Gaidica: Good afternoon, whatever time you’re here.
Grace Derocha: I know, whatever time you guys are listening. All those times.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. You doing all right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Good.
Grace Derocha: Living dreams.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s good. It’s nice to see you. Kristian Hurley is here. She’s the Senior Director of Community Impact for the American Heart Association. She’s really looking for strategic direction of how to help us all get on the right track. She’s in leadership and management. She’s got technical expertise for the Michigan Community Impact staff. And I got to know this lady a little bit back in my days with the American Autoimmune and Related Diseases Association, which is based in southeast Michigan. And so, it’s good to see you again.
Kristian Hurley: Good to see you.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah!
Kristian Hurley: Glad to be here.
Chuck Gaidica: And you’ve been with the American Heart Association, how many years now?
Kristian Hurley: About eight years.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah, A little bit.
Chuck Gaidica: Time flies.
Kristian Hurley: It does.
Chuck Gaidica: And you’re doing so much good stuff. And when we talk about this idea of sodium, I think so many people get this impression that we literally are talking about the salt shaker on the table. And that’s not really what this is all about. Nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium. And today, we’re discussing why too much sodium is harmful to the body and how we can come up with tips on how to reduce it. So let’s kick this thing off. First of all, what is salt versus sodium?
Grace Derocha: Sodium is a part of salt. So sodium chloride is, what is table salt, I believe, 40% sodium, and then 60% chloride, to make up table salt, or salt as we know it, that flavors our food. So that’s the chemical makeup.
Chuck Gaidica: Why is it so insidious? And why… Because we’ve just come, we’re going through into a new holiday now. We’ve come away from Thanksgiving, I mean, I’m just saying, my gravy, my turkey tasted better with a little salt on it, right?
Kristian Hurley: Well, it’s the excess of it. So Americans are getting way more sodium in their diet than they need to be getting. And what happens is, if you get an excess of sodium in your blood, it can help to cause high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a huge driver of whether or not someone’s going to have a heart attack or a stroke. And as we all know, heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans.
Grace Derocha: Yes. Men, women, yeah…
Kristian Hurley: Yeah. It’s all Americans, all Detroiters, everyone. So if we can get Americans to really start to look at the sodium that they’re putting into their bodies, and get them from eating the average, what is it, 3,400 milligrams of sodium, to, down to say 1,500, then we can make a significant impact on people having heart attacks and strokes, and decreasing the mortality from those issues.
Chuck Gaidica: So the body needs sodium, though, right? I mean, we need some base amount, so it-
Kristian Hurley: Some base amounts, about 15% of the sodium that anybody eats comes from, there’s just sort of naturally occurring in your food. But about 70% of it comes from packaged foods, processed foods, stuff you’re getting in restaurants that someone’s preparing for you.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: Extra that you add when you’re cooking or at the table, like you mentioned, but-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean, you need a little bit, but we are just, we are in excess as Americans. And so, that’s what we’ve got to curb.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, I was mentioning to Kristian before we started the podcast, that last week I was a little pokey, I’m sniffling, and the grandkids were over and I got a little something something, right? I go to reach for a can of light, meaning there should be lower sodium, chicken noodle soup in a can.
Chuck Gaidica: And I reached for it, and now because I’m like Pavlov’s dog, I turn the can to look at what’s in there. And I see that if I were to consume the entire can, it was either 1,700 to 2,000 milligrams total for two servings. I thought, “That’s my entire day shot.” I put it right back, as much as I wanted to have soup with a few croutons, because I had to go.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: But it’s that, have to go get it now mentality, food on the go, that I think allows this stuff to get baked into the cake, and then what are our choices? I don’t have six other cans of soup to eat right now.
Kristian Hurley: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Right?
Grace Derocha: So, a few things. I want to make sure that it’s super clear for people that, yes, sodium, we do need some in the body. It helps keep our electrolytes balanced, but you literally can get that from fruits and vegetables.
Chuck Gaidica: What?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, vegetables have sodium naturally in it.
Chuck Gaidica: My daily requirement could come from my five servings of fruits and vegetables per day?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: C’mon. I’ve never heard that.
Grace Derocha: Easily. Because, for good health, for any adult American, 2,300 milligrams is a recommendation for general health. If you have high blood pressure, or if you’re predisposed to hypertension or high blood pressure, 1,500 milligrams or less is the goal.
Grace Derocha: And I want people to know that if you take away anything, remember that, and then know, when you start looking at those labels, where you should be.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Because I hate this fact, and it’s important to know. With table salt, one teaspoon, one flat teaspoon, is already 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow!
Grace Derocha: So that’s your allowance in a day.
Chuck Gaidica: For the whole day, yeah. So, when we talk about the way our bodies work, what a marvel they are. But when we talk about this idea of needing some sodium, especially if you’re working out, if you’re trying to be healthful. You’re going to the gym, or you’re going running or something, your body is going to need some kind of sodium to do what? What does it actually do in our bodies?
Grace Derocha: So it helps control your blood pressure, to a certain degree. So that’s why if you get too much, that can skyrocket really easily. It works with our nerves. It works with different functions, as far as, excreting things. So there are definite functions of it, but we overdo it often.
Kristian Hurley: We do.
Grace Derocha: Way too often.
Chuck Gaidica: And if we’re getting too much, we kind of focus on heart health, and in particular you’re here, so I want to do that. But there are other issues that can come from this too, right? Relative to our body.
Kristian Hurley: Well, absolutely. You know, the reason that again, that we focus on the high blood pressure, is because of its direct connection to heart attacks and stroke, but osteoporosis, kidney disease, all of those are also affected. If you have too much sodium in your body, it really can drive a multitude of chronic illnesses.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, inflammation?
Kristian Hurley: Yeah. I mean, yeah, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Kristian Hurley: Inflammation, which is also a major driver of chronic illness, so-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: I was just going to say, inflammation, or just the feeling of being bloated. You know. Like when you, sometimes, no offense to restaurants, I like to dine out, too. But when you dine out sometimes, and you’re not used to having all that sodium, and often they flavor with salts, I will walk out of there. And you can be-
Chuck Gaidica: Swollen.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And if anyone has edema, or congestive heart failure-
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting.
Grace Derocha: You want to make sure that you’re watching your sodium, for that reason, as well.
Chuck Gaidica: And you know, Alzheimer’s association is now saying, “Heart health = brain health.”
Grace Derocha: Oh yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean it’s that simple of a statement is what they’re adopting. Saying that as long as you’re concentrating on your heart health, that’s really good for your brain, too, because that’s a huge growing issue in America, along with all the others.
Kristian Hurley: It’s a huge issue that AHA is focused on right now, around brain health. I’ve learned a great deal about this recently, as these new studies have come out. Who knew that what you ate has so much impact on your brain, and your ability to think? Well, push me.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah!
Grace Derocha: I just raised my hand, as the dietitian, of course that-
Kristian Hurley: Yes. Of course.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. But it’s so important, and I’m glad that you’re bringing that up, both of you, because everything that we put into our body can impact our heart, our brain, our gut, our immune system. So, you need to…
Chuck Gaidica: So, as a guy, I bring this back to something in my brain, which is the car. And I just think back when we were doing such a great job, of course, we’re in the Motor City, of making cars that last. But think back to what we put on our roads this time of the year, and what the impact is on rusting out a car.
Chuck Gaidica: And whenever I look at the notion of how much sodium, I always think, “Well, if I put too much in me, it could rust me out.” Now that’s just my way. It’s kind of a Tim Allen way of thinking about this.
Grace Derocha: No. It’s…
Chuck Gaidica: But when you think about how it would affect your bones, osteoporosis, it’s making perfect sense to my guy rain.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. No, I feel like that’s a great analogy. I think of, I think of that, too. Like, when I think of the roads, and how we salt the roads.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah!
Grace Derocha: And what’s happening to the roads?
Chuck Gaidica: Right,
Grace Derocha: And what happens to our arteries, with too much sugar, too much salt, too much fat. And then you have plaque building.
Chuck Gaidica: So let me ask both of you, on the days where I were to go to a restaurant, and I know, because I can feel, that I’ve, I’m retaining water or something. Can I drink enough water to dilute the salt in my blood? In other words, can I, not some emergency thing, but can I really add more fluids to my system, to just dilute it? Will that work?
Grace Derocha: Fast answer is no.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, interesting.
Kristian Hurley: I mean the, from, I mean, and I think our dietitian might be able to answer this better, but, I mean, really water is part of the culprit with salt. So it draws more water into that artery. So the, it’s going to increase the volume of the blood flowing through.
Grace Derocha: That’s why you need it. It increases blood pressure.
Kristian Hurley: Yes. Because the blood pressure means, that now you’ve got all this water gushing through. Sometimes we talk about, if you picture a straw, and somebody’s drinking something out of a cup. So, imagine, you’re really getting it, and you’re bringing a lot through.
Kristian Hurley: I mean, over time, if you, so, if you were to keep up some, that volume of liquid going through anything, it’s going to break down those walls. And so-
Grace Derocha: Wearing them out.
Kristian Hurley: You’re going to wear them out. And so, that’s going to lead to you having a heart attack, because it’s going to lead to you having that stroke. And so, so yeah, I don’t… Water is, it actually is part of the problem, too, when it’s connected with-
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s very interesting.
Grace Derocha: Or yeah. And making sure, yeah… So when I said, the fast answer is no, it’s because I don’t want people to think, “I can just have a super salty meal, and drink a lot of water.” And what I would say to someone going to a restaurant, they’re making it anyways. So if you want to ask them not to add salt, while they’re cooking it-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And then, you get to control that yourself, ask. Because the worst thing they could say is, no, it’s already pre-made.
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: But my husband always says, “You might as well ask, because they’re cooking it anyways. And if you don’t ask, you don’t know.”
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Don’t you find that when you go out to eat, that most of the time when you ask, that most of the restaurants will say, “Oh, sure.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: I mean, it’s really a pretty simple answer, and you just have to hope they mean it, you know?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. All right. Let’s talk about sodium in the diet. Give me again the the recommendations. Because sometimes, I see numbers all over the place, but there are some easy numbers we can put in our minds, right?
Grace Derocha: Yeah, so general good health for anyone, 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. All sodium. If you have high blood pressure, or you’re, if you’re predisposed to hypertension, that runs in my family, I know that: 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, or less.
Chuck Gaidica: American Heart Association concurs, these are numbers that are in line.
Kristian Hurley: We typically recommend 1,500 in general.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow! Okay.
Grace Derocha: She’s mean!
Kristian Hurley: Well, no, I mean, I think-
Grace Derocha: She’s good, no, no, no. Research show-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah, you’re right. I mean, obviously, Americans are currently getting over 3,000 milligrams.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: So we’re all getting too much, but we recommend 1,500. And one of the reasons, again, is because we’ve got this massive focus on the outcomes, rght? And so, we, there was one study that I was reading, that if Americans were to move, all Americans were to move to a 1,500 milligram diet of sodium a day, that that could result in a 25.6 reduction in national blood pressure rates.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow!
Kristian Hurley: Which, those are live saved directly. So I think we try to be a little bit on the safe side, and just go, it’s something that we can all acclimate our body, to eating 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. It’s possible.
Chuck Gaidica: It is possible.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: And that is actually my daily goal. Because a friend of mine who’s a doctor said, “Go, shoot for 1,500,” and I don’t have the hypertension. I don’t have any of the issues. It’s not as easy as you think. But once you get there, the one thing that I noticed, that we talked about this off mic, Kristian, earlier, is when you do cheat a little bit, and you grab those nacho chips, it is amazing how salty they taste.
Kristian Hurley: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: It is amazing how your palate can shift, and you can begin to see, “Wow, that Super Bowl party I’m invited to? That’s a lot of salt baked into the cake in that stuff.”
Grace Derocha: Well, and I’m glad you brought that up. Because before we started talking today, we were talking about, just habits and routine, that you get used to, and what you’re training your taste buds to get used to.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And so, there is definitely ways that we can change that. We can change that so that we realize, “Whoa, those, whatever, tastes way too salty.” I can taste the salt in bread.
Chuck Gaidica: Yes. Yeah. Even the fresh baked.
Kristian Hurley: As you should. Because bread is one of the Salty Six that we talk about, that people don’t imagine, is one of the largest culprits of where they’re getting the excess sodium in their diet, so, absolutely. Breads and pizza, soups is one of them, sandwiches, cold cuts, lunch meat. You’re having a Turkey sandwich on super salty bread. That’s not a healthy lunch.
Grace Derocha: Right.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, processed turkey. That’s what you mean, it’s cold, like a mesquite turkey meat, something.
Kristian Hurley: Pressed meat, processed meat, absolutely. Anything that’s far from that turkey you’re cutting on Thanksgiving soon. You know you’re going to be, that’s going to be higher in sodium. And actually one of them, it’s kind of funny, like tacos and burritos, which people don’t think about it. That’s one of the Salty Six that we highlight, because we eat a lot of things like that.
Grace Derocha: Right.
Kristian Hurley: And people don’t consider-
Grace Derocha: Taco Tuesday’s the thing.
Kristian Hurley: Taco Tuesdays! So that’s one of those areas where you’re getting way too much. So, if people could just think about that in their daily lives, when we’re trying to be, especially as we’re coming to the end of the year now, and everybody’s going to be hitting on, grabbing onto a diet, and-
Grace Derocha: New Year’s resolutions for everyone.
Kristian Hurley: New Year’s resolutions. Think about what you’re buying. Read the labels, as Chuck said.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: And really think about, “Okay, I’m getting soup. Everyone thinks they’re being healthy if they’re getting a soup.” But please read the labels, because again, that’s one of those Salty Six, where it’s going to have a very high amount of sodium in there, and it’s not worth it.
Chuck Gaidica: You take a baloney, or you take some of these cold cuts, and throw them in the microwave, you hear a crackle, you may see sparks. That’s the sodium.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: When you zap that stuff, sometimes, that’s the sodium.
Grace Derocha: Well, and I think it’s really important, and you brought it up. Whenever we’re thinking about anything that’s processed, there’s sodium added for flavor, but they also add sodium to preserve it.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: So it’s like a double whammy of sodium.
Kristian Hurley: Absolutely.
Grace Derocha: And then reading food labels. And you brought this up earlier, Chuck. No one has half a can of soup.
Kristian Hurley: No.
Chuck Gaidica: No, I know, I know.
Grace Derocha: No, so… But no, but I’m saying, if you’re having the whole can, you have to make sure that you’re aware to double that number, to double that sodium number.
Chuck Gaidica: And nobody who’s on a low carb diet, who grabs a little tiny bag of teriyaki, you know-
Grace Derocha: Beef jerky.
Chuck Gaidica: Beef jerky eats just like, two little pieces.
Grace Derocha: No.
Chuck Gaidica: They’re eating the whole bag, and then some, and it’s amazing how much sodium is there. So if our goal was to cut 1,500 to 2,000, 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams is the goal-
Grace Derocha: We’ll go 1,500. We’ll push it.
Chuck Gaidica: Okay, let’s say 1,500.
Grace Derocha: Because you’re going over anyways.
Chuck Gaidica: But you’re going to cut more than in half what the average person is intaking, and in their daily life.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Yeah, because 3,400 is the average, so-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: If you think that’s the average, that means there’s people having five, 6,000-
Chuck Gaidica: Sure.
Grace Derocha: To make that number, that absolute number.
Kristian Hurley: Oh, absolutely.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Easily.
Chuck Gaidica: So when we think about stuff that I’ve seen in my own life, a low, not so much low cal, but I guess, low cal. When I look at some of the salad dressings, they’ve taken out the oil, that’s good. But then I look at the ingredients. What are they kicking up a notch? Sugar and salt.
Grace Derocha: Yup.
Chuck Gaidica: Right? Because they’ve got to satisfy my palate somehow.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. Well, and I always say if something is at a, like, if you make whatever, and it’s 100% of it, if you’re going to say, “This is low salts, or light,” that means, no sugar added. That means they took out something. But they’re filling it usually with something else. So if they’re taking out sugar or fat, they’re usually adding salt. Yeah, so it’s a tricky thing.
Chuck Gaidica: So if we were going to try to make one concerted effort, what is the one food, Salty Six, I guess, they all, all six of those salty devils wind up in the same category.
Kristian Hurley: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: What is the one category we would really want to start to work on in our daily diet?
Kristian Hurley: I would just say, processed foods in general.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: I think that, I think one of the biggest things you can do is cook at home. You can have all those amazing soups that you find in the grocery store-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: And make them at home, and you can regulate how much salt that you’re putting in that food. And so, Americans, we have to start cooking our own food.
Grace Derocha: Yup.
Kristian Hurley: And we have to start, really going back to getting enough, getting the fruits and vegetables in your diet. And so, if you’re grabbing for something packaged, it should be very minimal to your diet. I mean, it should not be your go-to. So most of the food that you eat should be just food that you made at home, that you made yourself.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, I agree.
Chuck Gaidica: Well, let me disclaim it. I have no stock in it, but we’re in the 12 last days before Christmas. So let’s just say, an Instapot, I’m just saying-
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Could be a good idea.
Grace Derocha: Okay! Slow cooker soups are my jam.
Kristian Hurley: Absolutely.
Grace Derocha: I mean, that’s one-
Chuck Gaidica: Are they?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And we talked with Kristian about spices and herbs, and how you can develop flavors, with some of them-
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: Without adding the salt or the sodium, and getting again, then piggybacking off of that, to getting used to the taste of not over salted food.
Chuck Gaidica: Is there a reason that the already cooked chicken that we may pick up tastes so good? Because we get that at times. I mean, pick a store, big box or otherwise-
Grace Derocha: It’s salty.
Chuck Gaidica: Is it salt that’s in there?
Grace Derocha: It’s probably salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: They salt the skin. They may inject it.
Chuck Gaidica: So I think I’m doing myself good by getting the white meat, and cutting it, and I’m not going for the fat, but yet, I still have, what, they are injecting brine in there? Or what are they doing?
Grace Derocha: Who knows?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: It depends on the company, but sometimes, yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: I think the key is that, and we’ve said this, read the labels. Yeah, please read the labels. Compare. There’s so many different things. If you’re going to buy something from the grocery store, pre-prepared, pull out three of them out of that freezer section, or whatever, and compare the sodium, and the serving sizes, and pick the best option.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: And my app on my phone tracks sodium.
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: So I’ve got a scanner, so I can scan a bar code, which has been really an eye opener. That’s how I’ve learned about this stuff.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: But because I’m scanning things and I’m totaling it up, it’s kind of funny, because once you get on track for this 1500 milligrams a day, the days that I go to 1,700? I know I feel okay, but I’m sort of like, “Oh man, I’m slacking.”
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, I’m being really bad.
Grace Derocha: Well, and to go back to what Kristian was saying. I’m all about, cook once, eat many times. So if you’re going to cook soup, make a lot of it.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: And then freeze it, and then freeze it in individual sizes. So then, instead of the can of soup, you can grab your own homemade soup.
Kristian Hurley: Absolutely.
Grace Derocha: Now this is the season.
Chuck Gaidica: So blow our minds with this statistic. When I’ve got a salt shaker out, or I bring it out for a family gathering, really, how much salt am I getting in my diet, if I grab a salt shaker in my day?
Grace Derocha: So, if you’re adding it?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Well, I say, don’t put the salt shaker out-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: If you can help it.
Chuck Gaidica: But it really is still not the one thing that’s got the greatest impact in my day.
Kristian Hurley: Well, I mean I want to say for, you’re going to get about 11% of your salt from sitting down to eat a meal that maybe you’ve prepared-
Chuck Gaidica: You are? Okay.
Kristian Hurley: And you’ve, you got the salt shaker on the table, that’s about 11% of the sodium that most Americans are consuming. But that salt shaker is dangerous. Because as we talked about, one teaspoon is 2,300 milligrams.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Three-fourths of a teaspoon of 1,725.
Grace Derocha: Right. We’re already there.
Kristian Hurley: So, I mean, you’re just in trouble.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow.
Kristian Hurley: Like, if you got that thing out and you don’t, you’re not measuring it, so, it really is a no-no. We’ve had events where we’ve just taken them off the table, because we want people to-
Grace Derocha: And also, if you’re ever going to salt, salt into your hand first, so you can see. And sometimes, you can throw it over your shoulder, because you realize it’s too much. But that’s one of the best ways. Because I think, oftentimes, you know, see no evil.
Chuck Gaidica: Right!
Grace Derocha: You’re just putting it on there, and you don’t realize-
Chuck Gaidica: Well, you know what? I still, to this day, as much as I’m trying to make it sound like I’m paying as much attention as I am, and I try, I am still tempted to this day to salt my food before I’ve tasted it, especially at a restaurant. I see it, it comes on and I think, “Oh, that’s a nice looking steak, whatever, and the green beans,” and I’ll be like, “Oh! Well wait a minute, wait a minute. I should taste it first.”
Grace Derocha: You know, it’s funny, is, I just told him the story yesterday, about, sometimes recruiters, when they’re trying to hire you for a job, they take you to dinner on purpose, to see if you will salt and pepper your food, before you try it.
Chuck Gaidica: Come on!
Grace Derocha: And then they won’t hire you because, it means that you aren’t ready and willing to try it, and see what it’s like, before making changes to it.
Chuck Gaidica: So it’s not really, they’re judging you as a health risk?
Grace Derocha: No, they’re not judging you as a health risk.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow!
Grace Derocha: But I thought that was such an interesting thing, which, it makes sense in a way. How do you know what it’s going to taste like? And then, you’re right away grabbing. And I know lots of people that do that.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Just right away.
Kristian Hurley: You know, and if you won’t do it for yourself, not putting that extra salt on your food, think about the kids that are watching you. I mean, we are, we have little kids now, who are getting adult diseases-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Like high blood pressure.
Chuck Gaidica: Obesity.
Kristian Hurley: Obesity.
Grace Derocha: Yes, Type 2 diabetes.
Kristian Hurley: Type 2 diabetes. And this can be directly connected to eating high process, high sodium foods. And so, we don’t want to be teaching our kids, adding salt to their food is something that’s necessary.
Grace Derocha: Right, yeah. Or, is common, or it’s an automatic.
Kristian Hurley: It’s an auto, right, like you’re saying, you feel like, even though you know better-
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Kristian Hurley: You still have that drive to do it, because maybe you grew up with that salt shaker on the table. So let’s, maybe make a better example for our kids.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. They’re little sponges.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah!
Grace Derocha: But it’s true. And so, if they’re watching and they think, “Oh, I’m supposed to salt my food before I eat it…” We don’t have salts on the table at home.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Have I gotten to the point in my life, where I should be getting the salt that I grind in something? Is there any studies that show if I work harder at it, I put less on my food?
Grace Derocha: I haven’t seen-
Chuck Gaidica: If I can’t just shake it?
Grace Derocha: I haven’t seen that yet, but I will tell you that, oftentimes, when I have a patient that’s using a light salt, or-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Kosher salt technically has a little bit less per teaspoon of sodium.
Chuck Gaidica: Oh, okay.
Grace Derocha: They will just use more.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Like, if you use a light soy sauce, you usually use more of it-
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting.
Grace Derocha: Than if you use a regular. Not that I want, let’s just, we’ll pump the brakes on the soy sauce and the sodium and the salt. Mrs. Dash is a great alternative for-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Herbs and spices already put together for you. So there’s a lot of different things. Anything that’s canned, be careful, like beans. If you get the no salt added, better. If you don’t, rinse them. There’s definitely things that you can do, as you’re going through your day, to help bring that number to 1,500.
Chuck Gaidica: I am trying. I’m telling you, I’m like Pavlov’s dog. I mean, Mrs. Gaidica’s got me trained, too. I open a can of black beans. Even if it says low sodium, I put them in a strainer, and I wash them. And she, she’ll look at me, she’ll say, “What are you doing? It’s just a can of beans.” I said, “I know, but look at the sodium,” and it’s purely for that reason. It’s kind of weird, though.
Grace Derocha: Yeah. And I do tell people, if the front of the label says light, or low sodium, you know how you go to a store, and it says, Sale? But really, it was so expensive to begin with. Maybe the light version is the sale version, but there’s still a lot of salts, probably, in there.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah.
Grace Derocha: So just, to kind of keep an eye on that, too.
Chuck Gaidica: So Kristian, I want to get this thing back in my head again, because I know you said it, and you went through it, but Salty Six, give us the Salty Six, because I know they’re little evil devils.
Kristian Hurley: Yes. So people should remember the Salty Six. So bread, big area, where people are getting their sodium.
Chuck Gaidica: Regular, white or wheat bread for toast in the morning?
Kristian Hurley: Please read the label on your breads. There are breads that are better than others. But in general, it’s a huge area where we’re getting our sodium. So really, a big factor. Cold cuts, pressed meats, so, your turkey sandwiches or ham, the lunch meats that you’re buying.
Grace Derocha: Pepperoni.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah, pepperoni, absolutely, big culprits of sodium. Pizza. Everybody’s getting pizza on Friday nights, okay?
Chuck Gaidica: Yes.
Kristian Hurley: So it’s a thing, but you have to keep in mind-
Grace Derocha: There’s bread. There’s cheese, there’s pepperoni-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Boom, boom, salt.
Chuck Gaidica: The sauce itself.
Kristian Hurley: Yup.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: It’s just a big salt bomb, but tasty but…
Chuck Gaidica: You’re still ordering Friday, are you?
Kristian Hurley: No. Not so good. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Chuck Gaidica: Maybe. Yeah, maybe.
Kristian Hurley: Oh, so, soup. Soup is another, a huge culprit, so make it at home, control the salt that you’re able to put in your soup. Don’t buy the things in the grocery store, and if so, read the labels.
Kristian Hurley: Sandwiches and poultry, and then, in general, just buy tacos and burritos, which I know is a weird one to highlight, but we do. So it’s, that’s one of the Salty Six.
Kristian Hurley: So just really, again, just be understanding what, how much sodium you’re putting in your body. Read the labels, make sure that you’re thinking about it, and that you’re aware of it, the sodium that you’re putting in your body, and just that alone will make a big impact.
Grace Derocha: Well, and I was going to say, so if you’re at home, and you are cooking, and if something says seasoning, is usually salt. So taco seasoning, you could easily make your own.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Without having the one that’s pre-bought with all the sodium. Or what’s one? Oh, lemon pepper seasoning. That’s called lemon pepper seasoning. Everyone thinks it’s just pepper and lemons, but they’re salted. The first ingredient’s salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Is it really?
Grace Derocha: Yes. Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: We’ll talk about that. If we’re looking at ingredients, what are some of the other names of things that have salt in them? Ingredients that we would think are a pretty innocuous?
Grace Derocha: So, obviously sodium, but then, MSG, which you find, which is monosodium glutamate, which is often found in Asian foods.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s a preservative, right?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Yup. Sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, fleur de sel, making it sound fancy.
Chuck Gaidica: What is that, what is that really, fleur de sel?
Grace Derocha: Salt.
Chuck Gaidica: It is, really?
Grace Derocha: Yes.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow!
Grace Derocha: Yeah. That’s the thing, like, disodium phosphate… so, if you’re looking at the label, and you’re looking at ingredients, and you see anything that basically has sodium somewhere in there, besides fleur de sel, it’s salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah. And then, when we’re seeing no salt or sodium free claims, do we just accept that for face value, or we should still look at the label?
Grace Derocha: So sodium free means around five milligrams of sodium per serving. So it’s not really free.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, but that’s still pretty low.
Grace Derocha: Yeah, no, it is pretty low.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Definitely better than the full shebang of salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: Very low sodium is 35 milligrams of sodium per serving. Low sodium is 150 milligrams of sodium per serving. And I think the key there is per serving. So if you have something that has three servings, and you have all three servings, you’re now, low sodium is not so low anymore.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: So for you, Kristian, even in your own walk of life before joining American Heart Association, what are some of the “ahas” that are coming to you, that you were eating something, that really jumped out at you, beyond pizza and the things we’ve talked about?
Kristian Hurley: I think all kinds of things. I think the cooking at home piece is really important. Because I think once I started doing that, and cooking more healthfully, the things that I once ate, I’m ashamed of some of the things that I want ate.
Kristian Hurley: But I, say, for example, I was telling Chuck, I’m so embarrassed to say this on the radio, but I used to enjoy getting, say, these onion rings from Burger King. I mean, that was a thing. And so I had one,, in the last like year or so and I was just so shocked at how awful it was.
Chuck Gaidica: Wow!
Kristian Hurley: It just tasted like a salt lick. And so, I think that, as you teach yourselves to cook more healthfully, eat more fresh food, eat more fruits and vegetables, it’s hard to go back to eating that heavily processed, heavily salted foods. And so, I think it’s a natural process. And so, people just should know that you can change.
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: And even though today, you might be, all in that salt shaker at dinner, that you can stop. You can take it off the table, you can, over time, your body will adjust, your taste buds will change, and you won’t even miss it.
Grace Derocha: Our taste buds change every seven years. That’s actually, there’s growth and training in that process.
Chuck Gaidica: As we get older?
Grace Derocha: Just all-
Chuck Gaidica: Really?
Grace Derocha: So that’s a real thing. And I’m glad that you said everything that you said, Kristian, because I want people to taste the food. Don’t you want to taste, the actual food-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah!
Grace Derocha: And not the salts, and then the food? You know…
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. So can I just ask you a personal question? Did you find onions in those onion rings? I mean, because those-
Kristian Hurley: You know what? They’re so full of salt and batter, that honestly, it’s hard to find that onion in there.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah, not good, that.
Chuck Gaidica: Have you had an “aha” moment of some kind of food, where you were shocked at how it tasted, or how much salt was baked into the cake? Because I’ve got one, but I’ll tell you.
Grace Derocha: I feel like, I definitely, pizza, but even when I was in school, and when you’re in college you do a lot of pizza.
Chuck Gaidica: Right.
Grace Derocha: And then, when I learned that, I was like, “Holy moly”-
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: “I’m Asian.” But Asian food and Asian restaurants, they have salt. They have salt in all formats. They have salt, they have soy sauce, they have fish sauce, they have hoisin, they have oysters, all those things.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, you’re right.
Grace Derocha: And so they try to layer flavor that way. But then, there’s a lot of MSG, obviously, so there’s a lot of these flavors that get layered, but they’re all salty.
Chuck Gaidica: I’m an oatmeal nut, so I love oatmeal with berries, and a good banana, and some almond milk, a little bit of almond milk. Well, back in the day, when I was first getting hooked on oatmeal, I thought instant oatmeal packages were the way to go. And I was amazed.
Chuck Gaidica: And now, if I were to taste that stuff, it’s amazing how much salt is baked in. I don’t know the numbers, but it’s kind of wild. Yeah. So that was my big “aha.” So let’s talk about this idea of buying fresh versus processed. Always a good rule anyway.
Grace Derocha: That’s like my number one rule. I have two rules. Try to eat whole foods, and drink water. Those are my two-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Grace Derocha: Rules.
Kristian Hurley: We, the AHA concurs.
Chuck Gaidica: And if we’re getting pastas, or things that most of us are not going to make our own pastas, although some people do, unlike bread, or much like bread, are we seeing a lot of sodium in pasta?
Kristian Hurley: You know, I think again, it’s just a little bit less.
Grace Derocha: A little bit less. Do you need some for the, obviously for both bread and pasta, you need some salt for this food science to make it. But different brands are better.
Kristian Hurley: It all comes back to the label. There are so many choices. Have you seen the pasta aisle these days? I mean-
Grace Derocha: It’s like, a whole entire aisle.
Kristian Hurley: It is. So, I mean there’s so many options. You know, use an app like Chuck’s talking about, there’s even a tracker on our website where you can go on there, and if you don’t have a phone, or you want to just write it down, there’s some old school people, you could do that, too. But just compare. Spend some time at the grocery store, start looking at the different brands, and find one that is low sodium, and that will work for you.
Grace Derocha: And you don’t have to salt your pasta water.
Chuck Gaidica: You do not.
Grace Derocha: Do not.
Chuck Gaidica: That’s so interesting, because some people do that automatically, right?
Grace Derocha: I know. Just throwing it out there.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, do you-
Grace Derocha: But you don’t have to, I’m just saying, you don’t have to.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. Does it really stick-
Grace Derocha: That’s an excellent tag-
Chuck Gaidica: What’s the point? I don’t know why people do it.
Grace Derocha: So, so salt, for flavor, and to not make it stick. You could actually put like a dab of olive oil in, and that would do the same thing, and it wouldn’t be salt.
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting. And have you tried the lemon juice? Or I know you talked about the lemon and pepper, but lemon or lime juice, isn’t that something that can deflect your taste buds away from sodium?
Grace Derocha: Yeah. So the acid, the sour. So, there’s sugar, there’s salt, there’s sour, there’s bitter. And then there’s umami, it’s a whole ‘nother level. But if you can develop some of those other ones for flavor profiles in that, and not just salty McGee-
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, yeah.
Grace Derocha: It’d be doing a good thing.
Chuck Gaidica: All right, Kristian. So bring it home for us. Tell us what we should walk away from this podcast, or maybe we’re walking right now, but tell us what we should be taking away, as we move into our new year.
Kristian Hurley: Okay, well we want you to remember that, limit your sodium and takes to 1,500 milligrams a day. Remember that one teaspoon of sodium actually is about 2,300 milligrams. So just keep that in mind. Remember the Salty Six, remember?
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: So, real quick again, bread, cold cuts, pizza, soups, sandwiches and poultry, and tacos and burritos, so-
Chuck Gaidica: There’s somebody out there going, “Duh, that’s my whole day”-
Kristian Hurley: I know! Salty Six.
Chuck Gaidica: Yeah.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah, so keep that in mind, and please read labels. Read your labels, make comparisons, make sure that you’re selecting something. Keep yourself within your sodium budget.
Chuck Gaidica: And what did you say, Grace?
Grace Derocha: Everything she said. Also, back to homemade cooking, using spices and herbs. Take the salt shaker off the table. If you do just one thing, start making that a habit. Build those other tastes buds.
Kristian Hurley: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Interesting stuff. Well, good to have you here ladies. Grace Derocha, Kristian Hurley, from the American Heart Association.
Grace, Kristian: Thank you!
Chuck Gaidica: Good to see you. Happy holidays, and a happy New Year-
Grace, Kristian: Yeah, happy holidays, yeah!
Chuck Gaidica: As we all make our resolutions, and now I’ve got some of my own. Salty six, remove the salt shaker. Huh?
Grace Derocha: Yeah.
Chuck Gaidica: Wait till you see me in 2020! You’ll say he looks better, because it’s not how you feel, it’s how you will look, and you will look marvelous.
Chuck Gaidica: All year on this podcast we’ve been talking about, little small, simple ways, we did it today, that we can improve our health and mental health. But one tool we haven’t mentioned is the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan online member account.
Chuck Gaidica: So for those insured by Blue Cross or Blue Care Network, our online member account makes it easy to manage your healthcare and comes with so many great benefits. You’ll enjoy quick access to your claims, a directory of doctors in your network, and exclusive health discounts that are only offered to Blue Cross members.
Chuck Gaidica: And I know we have a lot of members who listened to this podcast. Registering is simple. It really is easy peasy stuff. Just takes a few moments, so just go to the link that’s in the show notes for this podcast, and you’ll be able to join and become an online member.
Chuck Gaidica: A real quick thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan podcast. You can get it and check out all the previous episodes as well.
Chuck Gaidica: Go online to, and you’ll be able to leave reviews there, ratings on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and also get all the great episodes, because we’ve covered so much territory, stuff that you eat that goes in, talking about mindfulness, slowing down, breathing right?
Chuck Gaidica: High blood pressure means so many great things to think about as you are fashioning the new you for 2020. You could also get new episodes on your smartphone or tablet, so be sure to subscribe to us on Apple podcast, Spotify, or your favorite app.
Chuck Gaidica: Enjoy your day, and be safe, as you get in and through the holiday season. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Take good care.

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.