Am I eating too much sodium?
Many of us eat without paying enough attention to our nutritional requirements — particularly our sodium intake. And if we are not paying attention to our sodium intake, we are likely consuming too much, which means our health could pay the price.
Statistics show a whopping 90% of Americans eat too much sodium. Most adults consume around 3,400 milligrams (mg) daily, while the recommended upper limit is 2,300 mg.
Sodium helps the body maintain a healthy fluid balance and is also key for normal nerve and muscle function. But too much causes the body to retain fluids, which can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Simple steps to slash your sodium intake
Dietary sodium comes in different forms, and not just from the saltshaker. In fact, more than 70% of the sodium we eat comes from packaged foods and restaurant meals. Sodium also occurs naturally in some foods, like milk and celery.
When you consider all of these sneaky sources, sodium intake can add up. But with a little effort, you can curb your intake without sacrificing flavor. Be sure to read the labels of the foods you purchase, checking the sodium content of packaged foods. Seek out lower-sodium products when possible.
Know the salty six. Pay particular attention to the American Heart Association's list of the saltiest foods and find alternatives when possible. These foods include:
1. Breads and rolls. You may not taste the salt, but they could have a lot of sodium. You can easily consume too much sodium if you regularly eat bread and rolls.
2. Pizza with pepperoni. It contains about a third of your daily sodium intake. Substitute veggies for the meat.
3. Sandwiches or fast-food burgers. They typically have a lot of sodium, so it may be wise to either steer clear or have half a sandwich with a salad instead.
4. Cold cuts and deli meats. Swap some of the meat for fresh vegetables on a sandwich, as processed meats usually contain high levels of sodium.
5. Canned soups. Seek out low-sodium options or make your own soup.
6. Taco and burrito fillings and toppings. Choose options like fresh veggies and lean proteins.
Other helpful suggestions include:
Cook with less salt. Season foods with spices, garlic, citrus and herbs, which bring out flavors without the need for much extra salt.
Drain and rinse canned foods. Canned beans and vegetables tend to be high in sodium. But you can get rid of most of it with a quick rinse. Or, look for ones with no added salt.
Take the saltshaker off the table. Break the habit of adding an extra sprinkle right before eating. You might be surprised by how quickly your taste buds adjust!
These suggestions can help cut your sodium intake and decrease your risk of high blood pressure, thereby decreasing your risk for heart attack and stroke.
As part of its mission to promote healthy lifestyles, the Platte County Lifestyle Coalition is involved with several local health and wellness programs, including the Walk to Jerusalem, the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP), running clubs at local schools, Walk with a Doc and more. To learn more about the PCLC or how you can become involved, contact Gene Vis, Platte County Lifestyle Coalition coordinator, at 402-562-4686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.