Friday, January 21, 2011

Too Much Salt In Our Diet

According to the website of the American Heart Association, most Americans consume over 3400 mg of salt (sodium) daily. The recommended daily intake of sodium is less than 1500 mg per day to help prevent or lower high blood pressure. The amount of sodium and salt used in the US food supply makes this difficult to achieve. Up to 75% of the sodium that people consume comes from salt added to processed foods by manufacturers.

In our food supply, sodium is used as a preservative to inhibit the the growth of bacteria in food, enhance the flavor, binds ingredients, enhances color and acts as a stabilizer. While sodium is an essential nutrient, very little is needed in the diet.

Sodium comes from natural sources or is added to food. Most food contains some sodium. While some sodium is added to foods for safety reasons, the amount added to processed food goes above and beyond what is needed.

Some major food sources of sodium
-Tomato Sauce
-Canned Foods
-Prepared mixes

One of the best things you can do is read the labels. When you go grocery shopping, spend a moment to see what ingredients are in the product you are buying. Learn to understand how much sugar, fat, sodium and other things are in what you are consuming. If you start to read the labels, you will be surprised at some of these things. Even in the products that claim to be "healthy alternatives", they are not always as good as they make themselves appear. It is eye opening when you start reading the label.

There is a lot more information on the American Heart Association website about sodium and its affects but here are a few more tidbits of information.
-1/4 teaspoon of salt = 600 mg sodium
-Low sodium designation on food labels means there is 140 mg or less per serving
-Some medications contain high amounts of sodium

Here are some ways to reduce sodium in your diet.
1) Choose fresh vegetables instead of processed vegetables
2) Select unsalted nuts or seeds, beans, peas and lentils
3) Limit salty snacks like pretzels or chips
4) Avoid adding salt to cooked dishes
5) Select fat free or low free dairy products
6) Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of food
7) Add fresh lemon to fish and vegetables to enhance the taste
8) When dining out, ask to have your food prepared without added salt.
9) Don't use the salt shaker

Remember that too much salt in a diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke. By monitoring your salt intake, you can reduce the amount you consume and lower your risk for these conditions.

Sodium is an acquired taste. As you begin to reduce your salt intake, you will notice how more of the true flavor of foods comes out when you eat. Your taste sensitivities will adapt in about 8 to 12 weeks but once they do, an entirely new world of food flavors will open up to you.

For more information:

Blog Post & Images (c) 1/20/11 Don Shetterly - use by permission only

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