Fat Free or Low Sodium

By Larry Teren


I’m that “sucker born every minute”. You know- the one who looks for food products with the “fat free” label prominently displayed. I convince myself that by eating such-labeled foods, it won’t be long before I begin again to look like an Adonis.

Yet, it can be quite confusing trying to evaluate what is healthy to eat and what is not. There’s salt-free, sodium free, low sodium, low salt and unsalted. Huh? How about sugar free and low sugar? Or my favorite- caffeine-free and decaffeinated. I once did research on this last one. Apparently, decaffeinated means that the thing you are about to put into your mouth once had caffeine in it, but was heroically removed. Caffeine-free means that it never had it and never will (apologies to that soft drink). That’s why the label on pop bottles read ‘caffeine-free’. By nature, pop does not have caffeine, or if at all, just a mere trace. The pop bottlers add it in to give it a kick. Pop that is labeled caffeine-free means that on that production run, they did not add in your favorite addiction.

So, is caffeine a bad thing? Who knows? Some people need an artificial kick to get them going in the morning. I gave up coffee about thirty years ago… zzzzzzz.. Huh, what? Oh yeah, and I don’t have a problem with staying alert. My grandfather, well into his 80’s had a glass of shnapps to start the day off with luster. It was supposedly good for the heart, especially since he already had three heart attacks and wanted a cheaper alternative to a pacemaker.

I’m careful about sodium or salt- and what’s the difference anyway? With my swollen ankles, I need to ensure that the extra liquid splashing around the bottom of my body doesn’t have any extra incentive to stay in its comfort zone and remembers to work its way back to the exit door when I lay down.

A healthy daily intake of sodium is 2400mg or the equivalent of a teaspoon of table salt. On the flip side, too little salt is not good, either. This can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. A person experiencing this usually exhibits memory loss and inability to focus. Two main causes of becoming hyponatremic are drinking too much water and taking diuretic drugs. As a matter of fact, there are many medical people who say that the idea of drinking eight glasses of water a day is ludicrous. Water soaks up the salt in the body and a couple of glasses or so should be adequate for your digestive system.

I pour over the ingredient and health content information on food packaging before making a purchase. With the flip of a coin, I sometimes take the item with the higher sodium content because it has the lower fat calorie percent as well as zero cholesterol amount. Then there are times I go for low sodium despite the high calorie count. It all depends on the mood and whether I can see my belt.

Sometimes they con you into thinking what your buying has low everything until you realize that in the very small print it tells you the serving size. But who can eat just three crackers or seven potato chips? C’mon!

It amazes me to see so many of these cup-a-soup packages out there with labels that read NO MSG!
That’s great- MSG can make a person, especially a child, very nervous. But then when you bother to read the small nutritional panel, you see that it says 1076 mg of sodium. Now, that’s a lot of salt. If you are going to eat such a highly salted food, you mind as well pour down home-made soup instead of the chemically protected small servings that come in the processed variety.

Then there are bottled juices which by law must now let you know that it contains only 25% fruit and the rest is water, corn syrup and other preservatives. Not too long ago, you could purchase Cranberry Juice that was labeled 100% juice but when you read the ingredient panel it casually brought out that what it really meant to say was that it was definitely 100% juice but not all of it was Cranberry. There was also grape, raspberry, blueberry or whatever. I wanted 100% cranberry. I finally found one that was indeed only cranberry, but it admitted that a portion of it was cranberry concentrate rather than fresh.

As for fat free vs. low fat- In the United States, low fat usually means that the product has no more than 3 grams of fat, whereas fat free has less than .5 grams. Maybe that means that there is hardly anything totally void of fat.

A friend suggests that as a group, Americans have become fatter in the past twenty or so years when food processors replaced good old sugar with corn syrup and other such derivatives.

The legal protection from being taken advantage of when buying a car is called a Lemon Law. With my luck, if I picked up a Lemon Law document, the small print would read: “Warning! High citrus content.”

Note: The author nor this website claim any expertise in medical knowledge. As always, each person should consult a doctor for their own situation.

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