Lite salt, Lymphedema, Canola oil

Lite salt, Lymphedema, Canola oil

Q: Is using lite salt a good way to cut down on sodium?
Q: What is known about the lymphedema that some cancer survivors develop?
Q: I’ve read reports online that canola oil is dangerous, true?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is using lite salt a good way to cut down on sodium?

A: If you use a fair amount of salt, using a lite version, which contains 25 to 50 percent less sodium, could be a smart move. However, people with kidney disease and those who take a potassium supplement should check with their doctor first, since the added potassium in lite salt could pose problems for them. Using less salt and more herbs and spices for flavor is another option. The major source of sodium for most of us is processed foods, not salt added at home, so that’s where we should focus our efforts.

Q: What is known about the lymphedema that some cancer survivors develop?

A: Lymphedema is one of the most poorly understood complications of cancer and its treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. The condition affects the lymph vessels, which are akin to thin-walled veins that transport lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other infection-fighting cells throughout the body. Lymphedema cuts or blocks flow in the lymph system, leading to swelling where the fluid accumulates. It can occur within days or years after cancer or cancer treatment. Lymphedema of the arms most often occurs after breast cancer, while legs are most often affected with uterine cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma or melanoma. Lymphedema is not usually life-threatening, but it can seriously impact quality of life.

Traditional advice has been to avoid exercising the potentially affected body parts. But emerging research suggests that if properly supervised, exercise might not hurt and could even help. Most treatment centers on controlling swelling and minimizing complications. While avoiding tight clothing or other constrictive pressure on the affected arm or leg is recommended, gradient pressure garments (also known as lymphedema sleeves or stockings) create pressure strategically to help mobilize fluid. Diet does not seem to affect lymphedema, although obesity apparently increases likelihood of lymphedema development, so weight control is recommended to reduce risk.

Q: I’ve read reports online that canola oil is dangerous, true?

A: No, canola oil is quite safe. Yet, despite research to the contrary, the stories about canola oil’s health risks keep circulating on the Internet. The false reports stem from claims that the oil contains high levels of erucic acid (a fatty acid that can be toxic at high levels), but in reality, canola plants actually contain low levels of the compound. Canola oil is a heart-healthy choice that can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. In addition, canola is one of the oils lowest in saturated fat. Like olive oil, it mostly contains monounsaturated fat, although it has a small amount of the plant version of omega-3 fat (linolenic acid). Omega-3 fat is important to keep our body’s inflammatory system in balance; it promotes heart health and may play a role in cancer protection. Canola oil has a mild flavor, so it’s a great choice for baking, for salad dressings or for use in foods where the stronger taste of olive oil is not desired. Use it for stir-fries, too, but note that high temperatures can cause it to smoke.