Shaking out the sodium, Organic produce that pays off

July 28, 2010

But a look at the label shows a surprising 310 milligrams per serving. And the Celeste Pizza for One with Sausage and Pepperoni packs in a pile of sodium, with 1,230 milligrams. Most adults shouldn't have much more than that in a whole day.

If you get too much, you run the risk of increasing your blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, or causing problems in terms of kidney stones or osteoporosis.

Consumer Reports went shopping for lower-sodium alternatives. Instead of the Mission Flour Tortillas, which contain 630 milligrams each, Consumer Reports found Tumaro Healthy Flour Tortillas, which just contain 160. That's a big difference.

Rice-A-Roni Rice Pilaf contains 970 milligrams of sodium in a single serving. Compare that to Near East's Whole Grain Wheat Couscous Original Plain. It doesn't have any!

And in place of that Instant Jell-O with 310 milligrams of sodium, Consumer Reports found a look-alike package: Jell-O's Cook & Serve. It has a lot less—just 110 milligrams of sodium. Consumer Reports says that it pays to read the nutrition facts, but be cautious about other labels because healthy-sounding labels aren't always low in sodium. For example, V8 vegetable juice calls itself "heart healthy." But it's actually got a hefty 420 milligrams of sodium in just one cup.

Here's another tip from Consumer Reports: Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, in water to help remove excess sodium. And if you're eating out, ask the waiter to have your food prepared without added salt and to bring dressings or sauces on the side, because hidden sodium can lurk in them.

You can get more information on shaking sodium from your diet on our website: www.consumerreports.org/health/healthy-living/diet-nutrition/diets-dieting/12-ways-to-cut-salt-from-your-diet/overview/index.htm.

Organic Produce That Pays Off

Sales of organic food are on the rise, hitting almost $25 billion last year. The largest growth is in sales of organic fruits and vegetables. Buying organic means you generally pay a premium. Consumer Reports helps you sort out the choices.

Almost any fruits or vegetables grown organically have environmental benefit. They use fewer pesticides and fewer chemicals, but if you can't afford to buy everything organic, there are ways to prioritize.

Your dollars will generally have the biggest health impact with softer-skinned fruit such as berries, grapes, cherries, and some things you're unlikely to peel, including peaches and pears.

And for items you might eat a lot of, like celery, carrots, and apples, buying organic is also a good choice.

Lettuce and kale are other good organic picks because some greens that are grown conventionally can be more contaminated with chemical residue.

For health reasons, there's less need to buy organic versions of produce with skins or outer leaves you don't eat, such as bananas, pineapple, and onions.

Another way to stretch your organic dollars is by buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season, when prices are lowest.

Consumer Reports says whether you buy organic or not, it's important to wash any produce really well. You don't need a special wash, but think about using a brush, especially on hearty vegetables like potatoes or carrots.

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