Watch your sodium (salt) intake, because nobody likes being salty!
What is Sodium?
Sodium is an element that is found on the periodic table and is used daily by humans. Sodium Chloride, known as table salt, is a common seasoning in most homes. Although sodium and salt are used interchangeably, they are not the same. Sodium is a part of table salt, 40% to be exact, but its function goes beyond providing flavor (www.hsph.harvard.edu).
Why is it important?
Sodium is a nutrient that is needed for critical body functions such as muscle contractions, which includes the heart and fluid balance within our bodies.
The amount of sodium that is needed to maintain these functions is not significant, so how much salt do we really need to consume?
According to the CDC, 1 tsp of salt contains 2,400mg of sodium, and the average American consumes 3,400mg of sodium (www.cdc.gov).
Consuming this amount of salt can increase an individual’s blood pressure, which can put you at risk for a stroke or developing heart disease.
Most of the salt that we consume comes from it being added to foods before we even purchase them.
Salt is added to foods to add flavor, make food last longer or to magnify texture and or appearance.
This accounts for about 70% of the salt that is consumed on a daily basis. If one decreases their sodium intake, the risk for stroke and heart disease can decrease.
How to monitor your salt intake.
Now that you know where the salt we eat comes from, here are a few tips on what can be done to decrease the amount of salt that you eat.
- Buy fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables with no salt added when shopping at the grocery store.
- When buying packaged food, check the labels for the amount of sodium in the package and per serving.
- If possible, buy fresh poultry, fish, and lean meats instead of cured, smoked, or salted meats.
- You can also ask the grocer if they have a low sodium shopping list available.
- Check to see if your local grocery store has a registered dietitian on site, if so, speak with them to find out other ways to lower your sodium intake when shopping.
- Salt alternatives are a good way to add flavor without using salt when cooking at home.
- Limit using sauces and mixes, this also includes flavored rice and ready made pastas.
- If you decide to dine out, ask that no salt be added to your meal.
- Order vegetables with no salt added or fruit as a side item with your meal.
So as we go about our daily routines, it is important that we are mindful of the amount of sodium we consume. Sodium is necessary for our bodies to perform major functions, but too much sodium is bad for your health!
For a complete list of recommendations, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/salt/reduce_sodium_tips.htm