Even if you are not a pretzel or potato chip junkie, you probably aren’t even aware of just how much sodium is in your diet.
Sodium, what’s harmful about?
High levels of sodium can be harmful to people with high blood pressure or heart, liver or kidney diseases. This can cause the body to retain too much fluid, that is the reason why people with these conditions should be especially careful about sodium intake.
The USDA, recommends that we need to choose and prepare foods with less sodium. The average American adult consumes about 2,500 to 5,000 milligrams of sodium a day. But we only need 1,100 to 3,300 milligrams, or about 1/2 to 1-1/2 teaspoons. That can be a pretty big difference, and everyone needs to worry about all of this salt talk.
Where are we getting so much sodium in our diets?
Surprisingly, all the times we add salt during cooking or as a seasoning to a prepared meal doesn’t compare to the major sources of “hidden” sodium in our diets found in baked and processed foods products.
Some examples include salad dressings, salsa and barbecue sauce, mustard, cheeses, meat tenderiser, pickles, instant foods, canned vegetables and soups, also it can be “hidden” in some places you don’t suspect, like in frozen dinners, ketchup or instant hot cereals. Even some common medications such as laxatives, antacids and cough remedies contain sodium compounds.
The keys to watching our sodium levels are to be aware of which foods have a high sodium content. Practice checking the nutrition facts labels for the exact sodium content per serving of packaged foods.
Some label terms can help our purchase decisions, here is explanation what each term means:
- sodium free or salt free – less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
- low sodium – 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving
- reduced or less sodium – at least 25% less sodium than the food’s standard serving
- light sodium – 50% less sodium than the food’s standard serving
- unsalted or no salt added – no salt added during processing, but could contain naturally occurring sodium
Here are some steps to reduce your sodium:
- Cook fresh or frozen meat, fish and poultry more often than canned or processed food.
- Limit your use of the salt shaker, or try a shaker with smaller holes.
- Try to limit your daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams.
- Substitute salt seasoning with other flavourings, such as onion, garlic, lemon, vinegar, black pepper, or parsley.
- Choose fresh, frozen or canned vegetables without added salt.
- Rinse canned beans and vegetables to remove added salt before cooking.
- Compare the amounts of sodium in various brands of salad dressings, soups and sauces, frozen dinners, cheese, breads, packaged mixes or cereals, because sodium content varies widely among different brands.
- Know how much sodium is in your favorite soy sauce, steak sauce, ketchup and salsa, and accordingly limit your intake.
It’s good to be mindful of how much sodium you’re taking in, but concentrate more on an overall nutritious diet, the experts do agree on is that getting a balanced diet with more fruits and vegetables is more important than obsessing over one ingredient, like sodium.