Monthly Archives: February 2016

Our SALT Addiction

Table salt or sodium chloride is a mineral mined from salt deposits in the earth. Sea salt, considered healthier by some, is procured through evaporation, but has the same basic sodium value. The side effects are similar in both sources. The CDC reports that 90% of Americans consume excess salt beyond recommended limits. This is what happens to your body:

1. Your brain reacts in a similar way as it does to heroin and nicotine, with an addictive effect(1).

2. Death from stomach cancer in both men and women is correlated with high sodium intake. It can cause stomach ulcers as well because of its effect on the stomach lining.

3. Sodium increases your blood pressure by overloading your kidneys. High blood pressure is a symptom of cardiovascular disease. It is also key in causing kidney stones.

4. Osteoporosis increases because the body takes calcium from your bones to make up for that lost in your urine.

5. Salt increases the risk of cognitive decline even when high blood pressure and poor diet were not present.

6. Your skin may be effected with edema or swelling due to fluid retention.


1. EMBRACE A LOW SODIUM DIET  You may not have to change everything if you eliminate the high sodium foods like TV dinners, cold cuts, smoked or canned meats and entrees. Salt hides in many foods, so be sure to always check the nutritional facts on the package.

2. START AN EXERCISE ROUTIN  Exercise is proven to be one of the best ways to sweat out your sodium. You get a lot of other health and social benefits too.

3. SWITCH TO POTASSIUM CHLORIDE   Potassium is a mineral in foods needed for vital physical functions like the beating of your heart. Some studies even show it reduces blood pressure. But, check with you doc first since kidney problems can interfere.

4. DON’T SALT AT ALL  Since sodium occurs naturally in most foods, we don’t need to salt. About 70% of all sodium we consume comes from the salt shaker. I personally don’t salt my food at all. On my dining table, I only have a salt substitute which is potassium chloride and available in most grocery stores.

5. IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE  If you have high blood pressure in the family like I do, you can control it. My sister is 57 years old and has been on blood pressure medications for over 25 years. In contrast, I have embraced healthy diets and exercise for most of my 62 years of age. I enjoy a Mediterranean diet which eliminates the packaged and processed sodium foods. I have an exercise routine since I was a kid because I find it enjoyable. As a result, I have never taken any medications for any chronic medical condition and have no current illnesses. My sister and I have the same genes, but a different outcome.  L. Johnson

(1)Dovey, D. 4-28-2015 “Too much salt: How a diet too high in sodium can affect your health, brain, and even bone health.” Retrieved on 1-29-2016 from


Quick weight-loss or fad diets don’t work. These usually come with dramatic promises of weight loss in a set time. The weight you lose at the beginning is mostly water, not fat. This does not result in long term weight loss. In fact, some of these diets are actually harmful to your health. If you are evaluating diets now, be aware of these sales pitches and stay clear:

1. Guarantees you lose a certain number of pounds per week, especially more than two pounds.

2. Recommends supplements to make up for loss of vitamins and nutrients.

3. Omits a whole food group like a no carb diets. Remember fruits and veggies are carbohydrates.

4. Rationalizes its diet is healthy according to a new or complicated theory.

5. Suggest a daily caloric intake of less than 1200 calories unless you are under the supervision of a doctor.

Everyone wants to loose weight as fast as possible with as little effort as possible–that’s human nature. But, everyone who has lost weight just to gain it back is aware of how frustrating and complicating it can be.  You certainly don’t want to risk malnutrition or short term weight loss that quickly returns from dieting. You certainly  don’t want to set yourself up for failure anymore.

When I was teaching the psychology of eating at the weight reduction clinic, weight loss was introduced as a healthy lifestyle change, not a quick fix. This involved evaluating your entire life to see where unhealthy behaviors occur. Some people had foodie friends or family that needed to adapt to healthier ways. So, they became involved in the support part of the program even if they don’t diet themselves.  Our diet program encouraged a mind set for positive adaptability to a new diet, an exercise routine, and social support from friends and family. The team approach proved to be much more successful than going it alone.

My two favorites diets are the Mediterranean and the Okinawa diets because of the longevity qualities–a particular interest of mine.  But, today’s diets are designed for your individual physiological needs. Nutritionalists construct diets to address cancer, cardiovascular illness, diabetes, and even things like anemia.  So, the best diet for you is not whats in vogue today.

Your diet should be based on your ancestry of medical illness passed down, your current physiological needs (i.e., high blood pressure, etc) and your individual health goals for the future. Some people just want to lose weight while others may want to control diabetes or cholesterol. If you’re serious about dieting the healthiest way, then make an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist and let them recommend a plan based on your personal needs.

Read more: The Psychology of Eating Less

Microwave Update

Some studies claim microwaves leak, ruin your food, and even cause cancer. Many of these studies are old and are not very scientific. So, lets take a look at the latest studies and recommendations.

Microwaves work by emitting electromagnetic radiation. These energy waves cause water molecules to rotate rapidly which creates heat that cooks your food.  This low level of energy is not strong enough to cause ionization which would break down your food.

LEAKAGE The Federal Drug Administration has requirements that limit the amount of leakage. This limits radiation to about two inches from the machine itself. This radiation also dissipates fast. So, as you move further away from the microwave, the waves rapidly diminish.  Just stand more than two inches away and it has less effect on you than your cell phone.

EFFECT ON PROTEINS Some old thought is that microwaving will break down proteins in food and make them toxic. However, new studies(1)show that, “all of the amino acids in the protein are still bonded together.” The nutritional value is not compromised. They concluded that if breakdown does occur, it is more likely from overheating. Cooking food at high temperatures or for too long will reduce the nutrients in that food and produce cancer causing agents. Barbecuing,  for example, is one of the worst ways to cook. Please see my other blog post on how Over-Cooking Causes Cancer

EFFECT ON NUTRIENTS  I’m referring to minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The general rule here is that nutrients are always lost when cooking. More are lost when the temperature is higher or when the food is cooked longer. The microwave results are that nutrient retention was actually higher in some foods and lower in others. It depended on how hot and long its cooked and if its in water. Food microwaved in water tends to lose nutrients into that water.

IN CONCLUSION The study finds, “There’s no evidence that microwaves adversely affect the nutrient profile of foods.(1)” The protein also stays intact and the leakage from the machine requires only a two inch buffer. Some have even claimed that  cancer is caused by microwaves, however, I couldn’t find any studies to support this. I generally use my microwave to reheat drinks or food for short time periods. I’ve never used it to cook an entree outside of TV dinners when I was in college many years ago. So, unless you are using pressing your face against the microwave while its cooking, you are just fine.

L. Johnson of

(1)Kresser, C., 4-7-2015, “Are Microwave Ovens Safe?” from