Sodium awareness

The average American puts themselves at risk of chronic diseases by consuming more than the recommended daily amount of sodium.

Americans typically consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium or more per day; however the recommended dietary allowance for healthy adults is only 2,300 milligrams. To put this in retrospect, think of one teaspoon of table salt as the equivalent of 2,300 milligrams of sodium. The American Heart Association (AHA) goes one step further, with its recommendation of 1,500 milligrams per day.

Michigan State University Extension says that people who choose to live a life continuously eating foods high in sodium have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some types of cancer and other chronic illnesses. Also, excess sodium in the diet may make your face feel puffy and increase swelling in your fingers and legs.

It is important to avoid sodium overload in your daily life. The first way is to reduce your consumption of “the salty six.” The salty six is a list developed by the AHA of commonly high sodium foods that most Americans eat every day. Items on the list include:

  • Breads and rolls
  • Cold cuts and cured meats
  • Pizza
  • Poultry
  • Canned soups
  • Sandwiches from fast food establishments

Another way to raise awareness of high sodium foods is to begin paying special attention to nutrition labels. Sodium is used as a preservative, as well as a flavor enhancer in processed foods. When reading the sodium level on an item, make sure to read how many servings the entire container provides. If you eat an entire can of soup, which is two servings, you would need to double the sodium content.

You can also choose “no salt added” products, or drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans. You could choose to modify recipes to include fresh, rather than canned foods. Eating foods high in potassium such as potatoes, banana, kiwis and oranges, may also help to counteract the effects of sodium on blood pressure. Remember that condiments like soy sauce and ketchup may raise the sodium content of the meal.

Substitutions for salt in everyday items can drastically reduce your sodium intake. For instance, the addition of onions, garlic, ginger, parsley or other fresh herbs are helpful in enhancing the taste of many common food items. You could even make your own salad dressing from oil, vinegar, herbs and spices, rather than buying processed dressings. Lemon or lime juice on chicken and fish add a fresh zest, or by adding wine to a stew creates a new flavor. Salt-free substitutes for salt are also available for purchase. You could even attempt to create your own spice mixture.

By reducing your salt intake you can improve your long and short term health.

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