Three easy ways to watch your sodium intake and be healthier

Three strategies to protect against the serious health consequences of too much sodium.

Never in history has there been such a variety of food available for us to choose from. In the U.S. and other first world countries, by just walking into a convenience store or gas station we can find hundreds of choices for snacks and meals. On the surface, this might sound like something to be grateful for. After all, in many countries starvation and malnutrition are real problems but Americans are still facing serious challenges when it comes to what we eat,

One of the biggest issues is too much sodium. About 1,100mg too much per day, to be precise.

Why too much sodium is deadly

The effects of too much sodium over time can have serious consequences. It frequently leads to hypertension, which, if not treated, can lead to: heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, blindness and stroke.

Michigan State University Extension provides the following tips to help you reduce your sodium intake.

Start with small changes

Making changes to your diet can be overwhelming, especially if you have established eating habits that you are attached to. For many of us, tasty snacks or going out to eat (where foods are often prepared with twice as much as sodium as they would be at home) are a way to deal with stress. But there are several simple changes you can make to start reducing your sodium intake that won’t be difficult at all. First and foremost is to reduce the frequency you go out to eat. This will save you money and also cut down on excessive sodium intake.

If you do go out to eat, ask for your sauces or dressings be served “on the side”. This way, you can control the amount you use, and use less of them.

Additionally, consider eating more foods that contain potassium. Potassium helps combat the negative effects of high sodium, so opt for foods such as bananas, yogurt, and sweet potatoes.

When snacking, go for snacks that have under 140mg of sodium per serving. The less, the better, but as you transitioning your habits, making small reductions will help you adjust.

Spice things up — literally!

Instead of just going with boring old salt to increase the flavor of something bland like chicken, you should opt for spices. Whether fresh or the dried kind — they will completely change your cooking and revolutionize your meals by replacing needless sodium with powerful, new, and exciting flavors. Below is an example of an easy, flavorful Chicken Salad recipe that serves a family of five and feature’s spices and herbs with only 120mg of sodium per serving – all without sacrificing the good taste of a home cooked meal. 

If you’re looking to try something new, there are plenty of low sodium recipes at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.

Make better choices

While the above tips can definitely help you reduce your sodium intake, the real culprit for overconsumption of sodium lies in processed and restaurant foods. Making better choices regarding what you eat and from where will have the biggest impact. Instead of sodium heavy delivery pizza, try fun and healthy alternatives, like these zucchini pizza boats. You should also try to stay clear of packaged “instant” products as much as possible. Instead of pasta or instant noodles, use fresh ingredients. Zucchini noodles are an excellent alternative to regular pasta noodles and can be made easily with a spiraler like this one.

All of the above tips, whether used separately or together, will help you reduce your sodium intake and protect your health. 

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