Mars Corporation, the makers of candy favorites such as Skittles, M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix, has recently announced the proposed elimination of King-size chocolate bars by 2013, and reduction of sodium in all of its products by at least 25 percent by 2015.
Now, many of you may think this is the result of some left-wing “agenda” . . . perhaps even that Mrs. Obama had something to do with this via her quest to make our nation’s children as healthy as they can be. But you have to admit, if a candy manufacturer is concerned with the public's health and levels of excess sodium intake to the point where they are willing to actually do something about it, well then, you know it's about time we all pay attention.
Why Sodium is Such a Concern
Sodium is essential to good health, and is required by the human body to function properly; but only in small amounts. It helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, aids in transmitting nerve impulses and helps your muscles contract and relax.
So why should we be concerned?
Well, marketing has something to do with it. Terms like “low-fat” or “gluten-free,” are all the buzz these days; and sodium is right up there with them. You may actually believe that your favorite foods are getting healthier . . . and it's easy to see why. Spanning each aisle in the supermarket are products that advertise "50 percent less sodium" or "light sodium," and the really catchy one, "no salt added."
Be cautious, however. These labels can be somewhat misleading because a lot of these foods still have alarmingly high sodium levels. For example, a regular canned chicken soup might contain over 1,200 mg of sodium, and the same soup with "50 percent less sodium" would still contain over 600 mg. Similarly, foods that claim to have “no salt added” may already be high in sodium, so no additional salt is needed.
Why Is All of This Important?
If your diet is high in sodium, it can lead to significant health risks. A few of the risks associated with high sodium include an elevated risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other considerable complications like heart attack and severe kidney damage.
The daily recommended amount of sodium for most individuals is less than 2,300 mg. For those who are over the age of 51, or people with high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease, it is advised to stay under 1,500 mg a day. It’s not easy to stay below that amount, either! Sodium sneaks up into your diet easier than you think; in addition to prepacked, processed or frozen foods, there are a few natural foods with abundant sodium, such as meat, shellfish, vegetables, and milk.
Controlling your sodium intake can be simple. A good rule of thumb is to avoid eating any foods that contain more than 200 mg of sodium per serving. When you are eating at the table, don't add a pinch of salt here and a dash of salt there as liberally as you once may have done. A single teaspoon of salt can contain over 2,000 mg of sodium!
With sodium being so widespread (yet hidden) amongst our foods, companies like Mars Corporation are doing the right thing and taking responsibility into their own hands. Could this be guilt for being part of the problem in the first place? Perhaps. Regardless, this initiative is a move in the right direction.