You're Probably Eating Too Much Sodium - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on July 29, 2015

You're Probably Eating Too Much Sodium

Meeting with a registered dietitian may help you balance out your sodium intake.

Meeting with a registered dietitian may
help you balance out your sodium intake.

Salt is symbolic of the spice of life. And in small amounts it’s good for your body. However, too much sodium is harmful to your health – and the guess here is that you don’t know how much is too much.

If you’re like most Americans, you might be unaware of just how much sodium you should be taking in each day. A single teaspoon of table salt (sodium chloride) has 2,325 milligrams of sodium (wow!), which is the basic daily recommendation. The average U.S. adult consumes one-and-a-half teaspoons of salt every day. The average American gets about 3,400 mg of sodium a day — much more than recommended. But where is it coming from? Some foods naturally contain sodium, including all vegetables, dairy products, meat, and shellfish.

When you’re cooking, recipes may call for salt and many people add salt to their food at the table. Condiments such as ketchup and soy sauce also may contain sodium.

But the vast majority of sodium in the typical American diet, more than 75 percent, comes from processed and prepared foods. These foods are typically high in salt and additives that contain sodium. Processed foods include bread, prepared dinners like pasta, meat and egg dishes, pizza, cold cuts and bacon, cheese, soups, and fast foods.

When you consume the daily recommendation, sodium helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, helps transmit nerve impulses, and influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

When you exceed that daily recommendation, you’re putting your health at risk.

Excess sodium in your diet can lead to:

Consuming too much sodium and salt may also affect your appearance – it can lead to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain.

How to Reduce Your Sodium Consumption

Even if you’re limiting yourself to the recommended daily amount of sodium, experts suggest cutting back further. To reduce the amount of sodium you consume each day, you should first start eating more fresh foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. In addition, fresh meat is lower in sodium than cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and ham. You can also buy fresh or frozen poultry, but look at the label or ask your butcher to make sure the meat hasn’t been injected with a sodium-containing solution.

If you do purchase processed foods, opt for the ones that are labeled “low sodium.”

When you’re cooking, you can remove the leave out the salt in many recipes. And, instead of adding salt, use herbs, spices, and other flavorings to season foods. Fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruits, and fruit juices can jazz up your dishes without the use of salt.

You can also limit your use of condiments that are high in sodium, including soy sauce, salad dressings, dips, ketchup, mustard, and relish.

Cutting back on the amount of sodium you consume might seem like a difficult task – some of those super salty foods taste delicious. But the health affects aren’t worth the risk. Plus, your taste for salt is acquired. When you gradually decrease your use of salt, your taste buds will adjust.

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