"Please pass the salt." Do you find yourself making this request, or habitually reaching for the salt shaker? You may want to take a break before you shake and think about the health risks associated with consuming too much sodium.
Our bodies need sodium to help maintain water and mineral balances and blood volume. However, too much sodium can lead to water retention and high blood pressure. High blood pressure in addition to other health risks like smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, and stress can lead to heart attack and stroke.
The average person consumes more sodium than our bodies actually need, which is about 1500 mg. Sodium in the form of table salt can easily add up because it is often hidden in processed or packaged foods. To avoid the health risks of this element, health care providers recommend consuming less than 2300 mg of sodium per day. That's equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt.
Cutting back on your salt intake might be difficult at first, but as your taste buds adjust you'll be on track to better health!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Use other herbs and spices such as garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, thyme, or even Mrs. Dash.
- If a recipe calls for added salt, cut the amount in half and taste it before adding more.
- Stay away from processed foods. If it comes in a box it will likely have added sodium to help preserve freshness.
- Watch out for "low calorie" or "low-fat" labeled foods. Additional sodium or sugar may be added to improve the flavor.
- When using canned foods, choose low sodium or reduced sodium versions. Rinse canned foods before using, to help eliminate some of the added sodium.
- Limit intake of pickled foods, smoked or cured meats.
- Eliminate fast foods from your diet.
- Beware of high sodium condiments like soy sauce which contains around 900 mg of sodium per tablespoon!
- Healthy snacks are fresh and whole foods. Add in more fruits and veggies to crowd out high sodium snacks like pretzels (1000 mg), pizza (900mg) and cheese (700 mg).
- Lastly, be a label detective! A little knowledge goes a long way.
Jody Anderson is a registered nurse and certified health counselor at Succeed Health