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Shake off the salt and get healthy

  • Published Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at 9:24 p.m.

Moviegoers love a good secret. There are more than 200 movies with the word “Secret” in the title – including, we kid you not, “The Secret Lives of Dentists” and “The Secret of the Ooze.” Those secrets can set you back $12 and waste your time, but Secret Salt hidden in food at the concession stand and on store shelves, well, that can knock you off your feet.

A new survey from Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic shows how much we don’t know about secret sodium sources (hint: they’re most often found in prepared foods). Today’s top 10? Numero uno is bread, and three-quarters of you told the clinic’s researchers you had no idea it was in there! The list continues with cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks.

Why does this matter? Chances are, like most North Americans, you take in around 3,300 mg of sodium a day. But anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or kidney problems – that’s 60 percent of you – should have only 1,500 mg. And for some with salt-sensitive high blood pressure (thank heavens it’s less than 0.5 percent of you), excess intake of sodium is deadly. To avoid salt bombs, prepare fresh foods so you control the saltshaker; skip fast foods and packaged meals. For the rest of you, just cut back; the excess elevates blood pressure a little, which can promote heart disease and stroke. But you don’t need to be overly compulsive about cutting salt, just a little careful.

Latest news on NSAID safety

When Texas legend Red Adair capped an oil-well fire, he detonated explosives to deprive the inferno of fuel. But when inflammation rages in your body, you may choose a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as COX-2 inhibitors (coxibs), ibuprofen or naproxen, to extinguish the pain. (Aspirin is also an NSAID, but more about it later.)

You may have heard how risky almost all NSAIDs are, especially if you regularly take high doses: They can cause gastrointestinal woes and cardiovascular complications, such as heart attack.

The exception? We know aspirin offers protection from arterial diseases, including heart attack and stroke, as well as from nine types of cancer. (You can help protect your GI tract from by taking aspirin with a glass of warm water before and after.) But up to now, no one had figured out the unique risks and benefits of the other NSAIDs. So it’s great news that, thanks to three major metastudies, there’s finally SOME credible info about those other NSAIDs’ differing qualities.

High-dose coxibs, diclofenac and ibuprofen may increase heart attack or stroke risk by about 33 percent. Heart failure risk is doubled with all non-aspirin NSAIDs. And a Food and Drug Administration panel evaluating NSAID risks voted 16 to 9 against the suggestion that naproxen causes fewer cardiovascular problems than other NSAIDs.

So, if you’re taking a NSAID, talk to your doc about the risk versus reward of specific medications. We like the pain-relieving powers of meditation and cognitive therapy, weight loss and appropriate exercise (whether your pain is from arthritis or another condition), and taking 900 IU daily of anti-inflammatory DHA omega-3.

The mighty power of microgreens

Toward the end of the 17th century, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek created a micro-scope that revealed there were tiny creatures swimming in every drop of water. The world never looked the same again. The microchip was invented in 1959 by Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby (working separately), and once again the world was transformed by thinking small. Now, microgreens are transforming how you eat your veggies.

Microgreens – tasty, nutrition-packed seedlings – are grown from the seeds of amaranth, arugula, beets, basil, red cabbage, celery, cilantro, chard, chervil, cress, fennel, kale, parsley, radish and other plants. They’re turning up in salads and stews, on 100 percent whole-grain pizzas, sandwiches and bagels, and as a garnish with grilled salmon or tossed in cooked whole grains and quinoa.

One study found that most of these mighty minis have four to six times the nutritional content of their full-grown versions. Of the 25 varieties tested, red cabbage had the highest concentration of vitamin C; cilantro, the most carotenoids; amaranth, the most vitamin K; and green daikon radish was tops in vitamin E.

Interested? All you need is a plastic container filled with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of organic soil set on a draining tray and a sprinkling of seeds (mixed is good). Press them gently into the soil. Now you need a south-facing windowsill, a watering can and a couple of weeks (although some take four to six weeks). Snip the shoots at the soil line when they’re 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long and there’s a set of partially developed microleaves. Wash well and enjoy.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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