Mar 11th, 2013
Author: Avadean Lewis
Sodium is a mineral that performs several key jobs in the body, such as regulating the balance of fluids inside and outside of our cells. Sodium is naturally found in some foods – one cup of chopped celery contains 80 mg of sodium, for example – but the trouble is, most of us take in far more sodium than our bodies need. In fact, the typical American consumes 6,000 mg of sodium per day – almost triple the 2,300 mg recommended for healthy adults (which is the amount found in one teaspoon of table salt). If you already have high blood pressure, the recommended maximum is only 1,500 mg per day.
About 75 percent of the sodium we eat is in the form of processed foods. Just one cap of processed canned soup can provide more than 1,000 mg of sodium. Even low-sodium broths provide about 500 mg per cup – still more than 20 percent of the daily recommended max. One package of Marie Callender’s Classic One Dish Chicken Teriyaki contains 2,200 mg!
Fluid is attracted to sodium, kind of like a magnet, so when you’re carrying excess sodium in your body, you hang on to more fluid. This creates more work and stress on your heart, which has to pump all that fluid around, and typically triggers a rise in your blood pressure. Then it’s like a domino effect: higher blood pressure puts you at greater risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and other serious health problems.
Research indicates that reducing sodium not only lowers blood pressure but also prevents hypertension in people who don’t already have it. Studies also suggest that cutting sodium by 800 mg to 1,000 mg per day reduces the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, coronary bypass, or other cardiovascular event by 25 to 30 percent.
Limiting sodium doesn’t directly affect weight. Still, for many people, salty snacks like potato chips and pretzels are addictive – it really is hard to eat just one Lay’s potato chip! – and the calories can add up quickly.
- Trade highly processed foods for whole or less processed versions, such as fresh green beans instead of canned or homemade vinaigrette instead of bottled dressing. Over time, your taste buds will adjust, so what seems bland now will eventually taste great, and former “just right” foods will taste like salt licks.
- Instead of salting baked or grilled fish, try a combo of minced garlic, lemon or lime juice, and cracked black pepper.
- Marinate meat in sauces made from fresh juices, such as pineapple with onions and chili peppers, or season with bay leaf, marjoram, sage, mint and thyme.
- Add flavor to mashed or baked potatoes with fresh dill, rosemary or chives and scallions.
- Season homemade soups or stews and vegetable dishes with fresh or dried basil, bay leaf, dill, marjoram, onion, oregano, parsley, and pepper.
- Season rice or grain dishes with savory flavors such as cumin, curry powder, onion, and paprika, or spicy seasonings such as ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
- Read food labels. Either look at the milligrams of sodium per serving (be sure to multiply this by the number of servings you eat if you eat more than one) or the Percent Daily Value or %DV. The Percent Daily Value is the amount you should take in per day. One hundred percent of the daily Value for sodium is set at 2,400 mg, just over the recently revised current recommendation of 2,300 mg per day. If the nutrition facts pane states that one serving of a food provides 25 percent of the Daily Value for sodium, this means one serving provides 25 percent of the 2,400 mg upper limit. The %DV can help you quickly compare similar foods to each other, such as two brands of soup or salad dressing.