Sodium in Broth, Rye Bread, and B12 Levels

Q: How can broth labeled “natural” contain 570 milligrams of sodium per serving? Isn’t that high?
Q: Is rye bread a whole grain?
Q: What medications can put people at risk of having low vitamin B12 blood levels?

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

Q: How can broth labeled “natural” contain 570 milligrams of sodium per serving? Isn’t that high?
A: Commercial soups can be high in sodium. The phrase “natural” on a food label does not mean a food is made without salt. A natural food has no artificial ingredients such as artificially-produced flavors, colors or preservatives. Because salt and sugar are naturally occurring ingredients, the term “natural” does not imply anything about their presence in a food. The “natural” broth you saw with 570 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving is providing a big portion of the 2,300-mg limit advised for the day. (A 1,500-mg sodium limit is recommended for those with high blood pressure or at risk of developing it). However, most broths contain 950 to 1,100 mg of sodium per serving. A broth labeled “reduced sodium” contains no more than 140 mg per serving, which is much more workable. If you can’t find a prepared low sodium broth in your grocery store, you can order it online or use low-sodium bouillon. Some bouillon is available in a “very low sodium” level with 35 mg or less per serving or “sodium free” with 0 mg. You could combine either of those with the natural broth you saw (using half of each) to get a soup or other dish with a reasonable sodium level.

Q: Is rye bread a whole grain?
A: It depends on the type of rye flour used to make the bread. Dark rye bread is often a whole-grain product, but light American rye frequently contains mostly refined flour. The Scandinavian-style rye flatbread crackers are often whole grain. Breads made primarily with whole grain will have “whole grain” listed in the ingredients first, because ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. You don’t need to restrict yourself to only whole grains, but they do provide more nutrition than refined grains. Whole grains contain extra fiber, vitamins B6 and E, magnesium, zinc and natural protective compounds that make them worth choosing.

Q: What medications can put people at risk of having low vitamin B12 blood levels?
A: Certain medications used in treating esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcers may pose problems for some people. The vitamin B12 in foods, such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, is bound to a protein that needs to be removed for the body to absorb the vitamin. Two classes of drugs that work by decreasing stomach acid levels can result in decreased ability to separate B12 from that protein. The solution to this problem is to include enough B12 from fortified foods or a supplement to meet needs, since the B12 in these items are not protein-bound. Some studies suggest that B12 deficiency rarely develops with these medications, but some researchers note that long-term use of these medications increases the risk of reaching low B12 blood levels. One diabetes medication, metformin, has been shown to indirectly decrease B12 absorption in 10 to 30 percent of users after three or more years’ use. Reduced absorption in this case seems to relate to calcium. The body needs calcium to absorb B12 and metformin may reduce calcium availability. The National Institutes of Health suggests that meeting the RDA for calcium via food and/or supplements can help metformin users absorb more B12.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

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