Start the New Year healthy by consuming less sodium

Most Americans consume too much sodium each day, do you?

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to decrease your sodium intake? Although some sodium is necessary for our bodies, the majority of individuals consume far more than the recommended amount each day. High sodium diets have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Michigan State University Extension recommends you evaluate your sodium intake.

The current recommendation for Americans, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines is as follows:

Adequate Intake (AI) levels:

1- to 3-years-old: 1,000 milligrams per day

4- to 8-years-old: 1,200 milligrams per day

9- to 50-years-old: 1,500 milligrams per day

51- to 70-years-old: 1,300 milligrams per day

71 years and older: 1,200 milligrams per day

General recommendations: Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day (about one teaspoon of salt).

Specific recommendations: Reduce intake to 1,500 milligrams per day (about one-half of a teaspoon) among those 51 years and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension or diabetes.

Americans on average get over 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, with the majority coming from packaged, processed, store bought, fast food and restaurant food. Over the years of teaching nutrition classes, the topic of sodium always brings up lots of great questions and comments. When people hear about the recommendations for sodium and how much most Americans are consuming, they are often very surprised. Many will share that they don’t use a salt shaker so they assume they aren’t getting very much sodium in their diet.

Compare the amount of sodium consumed, or sodium added to foods in a typical day. The natural sodium content of food accounts for about 10 percent, adding salt while cooking or at the table is another five to 10 percent, while processed foods account for 75 percent of one’s daily sodium. Since most sodium in our food supply comes from packaged foods, learning to read the nutrition facts labels on foods can significantly help you identify high sodium foods. Use the nutrition facts label to help you choose foods with a lower % Daily Value (DV) for sodium. Foods with less than 140 milligrams per day of sodium per serving can be labeled as low sodium foods. Remember to review the serving size for the food you are consuming and then make adjustments for sodium if you are eating more than one serving. Keep in mind that the amount of sodium listed on the label is based on one serving.

The preference for salty foods is something you learn which means that over time you can reduce your cravings for salty foods or eliminate adding salt to your food during meal times. You can reduce sodium in your diet by making a few gradual changes:

  • Start by adding fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (dried beans, lentils, split peas) into your diet more often.
  • Watch out for condiments. Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressings and seasoning packets are high in sodium.
  • Gradually experiment by adding salt-free herbs and spices into your favorite recipes.
  • Look for low-sodium products or foods without added salt to replace regular high sodium foods. For example, check for “no salt added” or low-sodium versions of broth, vegetables, etc.
  • Avoid salting food during cooking or reduce the amount of salt you add while cooking.
  • Request that salt is not added to your food when eating out.

Reducing your sodium intake is achievable and can have tremendous benefits to your body.

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