Sodium is one of the minerals that are generally “over-consumed.” From the potato fries you eat, the tomato sauce in your pasta and the canned goods you keep at home – sodium is practically everywhere. That’s why it’s so easy for most of us to consume beyond what is required.
Sources of Sodium: Where do we usually get sodium from?
The primary source of sodium is not just salt, as many people think it is. Although salt is 40% sodium, sodium can also be found in other products such as canned goods, cheeses, and other dairy products. Baking soda, monosodium glutamate, pickled foods and even medications such as laxatives and antacids also have sodium content.
According to the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association in its recent publication entitled “Sodium and Salt,” the top ten sources of sodium in the average American diet are:
- Meat Pizza
- White Bread
- Processed Cheese
- Hot Dogs
- Spaghetti with Sauce
- Cooked Rice
- White Roll
- Flour (wheat) Tortilla
Looking at those foods listed, we can never tell in taste alone if the food we are eating is high in sodium or not. The best practice is: Always look at food labels. Usually, the amount of sodium in a specific food is indicated at the back of the package.
|SODIUM CONTENT INDICATOR||MEANING|
|Sodium-Free||Less than 5mg of sodium|
|Very Low Sodium||35mg of sodium or less|
|Low Sodium||140mg of sodium or less|
|Reduced Sodium||At least 25% less sodium than the regular|
|Light in Sodium||Reduced to at least 50% than the regular|
|Unsalted||No salt is added on the processing|
What’s wrong with sodium, anyway?
Don’t get me wrong, sodium isn’t entirely bad for our health. However, Americans eat no less than 9g per day, almost 30% higher than the 6g recommended limit. Nine grams of sodium is way beyond what our kidneys can process. The excess ends up in the bloodstream and retains water, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood. In the long run, this results in kidney failure and heart disease.
How to reduce sodium intake
Sodium is an important component in a diet and it is something that should not be cut out completely – only regulated. Here are some tips to limit your sodium intake:
Avoid eating processed goods and vegetables. According to the Mayo clinic, 77% of the time, we take in sodium through processed and prepared goods. For canned vegetables, try to rinse them first to shake off some salt. Or better yet, buy fresh vegetables. For canned goods, pick those which are low in sodium or avoid eating them at all.
Choose low sodium variety of your favorite food. Look at the nutrition labels on the food package and be aware of the word “sodium” or the symbol, Na. They are indicators of sodium. Choose only those which are unsalted and low-sodium labels.
Use natural spices instead. Learn to use herbs and natural spices to enhance food flavor instead of salt.
Limit salty snacking. Pretzels and chips are usually overloaded with salt. Eat these types of snacks in moderation or pick those unsalted versions. I show clients Samples of hese snacky items that have no salt added. They are very available if you look closely.
Request less salt in your food when dining out. When dining out, always ask if it’s possible for your dish to be prepared with less salt. Nowadays, more and more restaurants allow their customers to request how their food should be cooked.
I suggest the following to clients that have high blood pressure:
- Do not purchase a processed food that has more than 200 mg. of sodium per serving. Remember A low- Sodium diet is considered 2000 mg. day. It adds up pretty quickly. You will see that sliced breads, rolls, bagels, English muffins, crackers and chips surprisingly have lots of sodium. I recommend my clients to eat potatoes, rice, fresh corn and peas for starches.
- Drink 6-8 glasses a day to get rid of the extra salt in your body.
- Exercise as best as you can for 30 minutes so that you will sweat. You must realize that when you are sweating you are loosing salt.
- Eats your 30 grams of fiber a day to make sure all the processed foods leave your body quickly.
If you have high blood pressure feel free to call with any questions.
Changing our eating habits to lessen our salt consumption can be challenging. Our taste buds are already used to the foods we usually eat. However, we need to be mindful of how much sodium we get in every meal. As our taste buds get used to just the right amount of sodium in each meal, we will learn to appreciate the true flavors of food, as well as enjoy all their healthy benefits.