Published On: Wed, Mar 11th, 2015
Health | By

Shake the salt habit

 

By JEAN WALBORN

CHEROKEE DIABETES PROGRAM 

 

Unlike calcium, vitamin D, iron and fiber, which often are consumed in inadequate amounts,  sodium is   commonly over-consumed.  Nine out of 10 Americans eat too much sodium.  Don’t think that sodium is bad.  It is a mineral that people need because it helps maintain the right balance of fluid in the body, helps the nervous system function properly, and helps  muscles work.  Yet, too much sodium puts people at risk for health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams (mg) a day, the amount of sodium found in  one teaspoon of table salt,  – and less for people  who have hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease.   Yet the average American gets about 3400mg of sodium a day.  It isn’t the salt shaker that provides the biggest amount.  The main source of sodium in a typical diet comes from processed and prepared foods.  Processed foods include bread, boxed foods like pasta and rice, canned soups, frozen meals, pizza, bacon, cheese,  and fast foods.  About  75 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed and prepared foods.  Another source of sodium is natural sources.   Vegetables and dairy foods, meat and shellfish are examples.  Even though they don’t have large  amounts  of sodium, eating these foods will add to overall sodium intake.  Finally, sodium can be added  in  preparation and at the table.   Condiments frequently contain sodium.  Soy sauce, for example, has about 1000mg of sodium in one tablespoon.

If reducing sodium intake sounds like a good idea to you, here are some tips:

  • Eat more fresh foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Fresh cuts of meat are lower in sodium than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham and frozen prepared meats.
  • Choose low sodium products . Look for processed foods that are labeled “low sodium”. Buy plain rice and pasta instead of ones with added seasonings.  Decrease use of “instant” foods.
  • Remove salt from recipes and use less salt at the table.
  • Limit use of high sodium condiments. Salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium.
  • Use herbs and spices to season foods. Use fresh or dried herbs, spices, and zest from citrus fruits and fruit juices to flavor your foods.
  • Use salt substitutes wisely. Some salt substitutes and light salts contain a mixture of table salt and other compounds.  If you use too much, you may still get too much sodium.  Some salt substitutes contain potassium, which can be harmful if you have kidney  problems or are taking certain medications for high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.  Always check with your health care provider.
  • Read the “Nutrition Facts” label. It lists the amount of sodium in one serving. It also lists the ingredients, which may include salt and other sodium containing ingredients. Look for ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate),  disodium phosphate,  sodium citrate, and sodium nitrate.
  • As a guide, try to avoid products with more than 200mg of sodium per serving.

The taste for salt is learned.   Decrease your use of salt gradually, and your taste buds will adjust.  Then you can enjoy the taste of the food itself, and reap health benefits as a result.

Info: Jean Walborn, RDN, LDN, jean.walborn@cherokeehospital.org or Cherokee Diabetes Program at 497-1991 ext. 7569.

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