Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure (HBP) or hypertension. And, while HBP may not sound that ominous, it can lead to things like heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss. In addition, high amounts of sodium may be detrimental to brain function, comprehension and bone density, and can be associated with stomach ulcers.
Don’t shake it off completely
The good news is that your body needs some sodium. Salt (sodium chloride) is our biggest source of the mineral. It helps our muscles contract, sends nerve impulses throughout our bodies and helps regulate the balance of fluids so we don’t get dehydrated.
So what’s the rub?
Sodium consumption is generally the problem. The daily recommended amount of sodium is 2,300 mg (roughly a teaspoon of salt). However, for those at high risk for HBP, and for optimal heart health, the American Heart Association recommends keeping sodium intake down to 1,500 mg daily.
Where sodium slides in
Sauces and salad dressings, bread, deli meats, cheese and canned foods can have excessive amounts of sodium hidden inside. The reasoning is two-fold: sodium is used as a preservative and it’s one of the main ingredients used to make foods taste delicious.
The simple sodium solution? Cook at home with fresh ingredients. Other tips include:
- Reading the sodium content in packaged foods before purchasing
- Measuring exact amounts of salt when cooking
- Avoiding the salt shaker while eating
- Creating your own dressings and sauces
- Exploring flavor alternatives: fresh basil and rosemary; thyme and tarragon; curry and cumin, for example
- Skipping the fast food
- Slow roasting, stir-frying and grilling are great options for enhancing natural sweetness and flavors
Find out more
Visit the American Heart Association for additional information on how to reduce sodium in your diet. Check out its #BreakUpWithSalt program, a 3-week plan to change your salty ways.
While foods high in sodium can be particularly delicious, it’s important to remember that excess amounts of salt put pressure on your blood and heart.
Keep the sodium low, and keep your body healthy and happy. You’ll be the salt of the Earth if you do.