You can find the cholesterol, sodium and potassium content of packaged products in the middle of the Nutrition Facts label. These values are always listed in milligrams (mg) and it’s important to monitor your intake of each. Now, I must point out that all cholesterol isn’t bad cholesterol. In fact, some of the most wholesome foods contain high levels of cholesterol among which include natural cheeses, egg yolks, seafood (fatty fish and shellfish), and lean meats (beef, bison, and lamb).
Moderation is key when consuming these cholesterol-rich foods.
Sodium is an entirely different story. While the body requires trace amounts to carry out vital functions, most people consume way more than what’s needed. Since sodium is a preservative, it’s hidden in just about everything in a package with the largest amounts housed in frozen and precooked meals, canned goods, prepackaged meats (sausages and lunchmeats), ready-to-eat baked goods, pasta sauces, and food condiments.
It just so happens that all the high-sodium foods I’ve mentioned here also tend to be the richest in ‘bad’ cholesterol. As such, by limiting your overall intake of these foods, you’re inherently reducing the amount of cholesterol you take in. So, as you use food labels to track your daily cholesterol and sodium intakes, make an effort not to exceed 200-300 mg of cholesterol and 2,000-2,400 mg of sodium per day.
Finally, there is potassium, which the body needs in relatively larger quantities compared to cholesterol and sodium. This essential micronutrient plays a critical role in regulating fluid and electrolyte balance and is also needed for optimal bone health and adequate functioning of the heart, skeletal muscles, and nervous system. The likelihood of consuming too much potassium is rare, as most people don’t get enough of this important nutrient on a daily basis.
Low potassium levels can lead to muscle weakness, cramping, abnormal heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, and elevated blood pressure. Over time, deficiencies in potassium can cause bone fragility and hypertension, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. If your diet is rich in processed foods and low in vegetables, fruits and other whole foods you are at risk.
Therefore, it’s important to track your daily potassium intake using food labels and make an effort to consume about 4,700 mg each day.
Large quantities of potassium are housed in a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Those that contain the most include potatoes, mushrooms, leafy green vegetables, bananas, and avocado. You can also obtain substantial amounts of potassium by consuming fish, poultry and dairy foods in addition to whole grains, nuts and soy products.