Salty potato chips. Salted popcorn. Salt on french fries. We are a nation that loves salt. Although it enhances the flavor of foods, too much sodium is not a good thing.
Excess sodium can cause a person to retain excess fluid in the body, which in turn puts pressure on your heart. This can lead to high blood pressure, one of the major risk factors for heart disease. The American Heart Association estimates about one in three Americans will be diagnosed with high blood pressure at some point in their lives. For people with diabetes, their chances of also getting high blood pressure are doubled.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. People over the age of 51, and those of any age who are African American or who have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, should limit their daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or less. However, most Americans 2 years old and up consume more than 3,300 milligrams a day.
What many people don’t realize is sodium consumption isn’t limited to the salt you actually sprinkle on your food. More than 75 percent of the sodium a person consumes each day is found in food, especially processed foods and restaurant meals.
Fortunately, you can make dietary changes that can help you reduce your risk for some diseases by reducing your sodium intake.
Reducing sodium can be difficult, because it is in so much more than just the salt we sprinkle onto our foods at the dinner table. About 75 percent of the sodium we consume is added to food during processing.
The Center for Disease Control did a study to determine the major sources of sodium in the American diet. The following foods topped the list (in order): bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, fresh and processed chicken and canned soups. High amounts of sodium are also found in unexpected places including condiments, dairy products, chewing tobacco and snuff.
There are some steps consumers can take to help reduce their sodium intake. Buy fresh or frozen vegetables. If you choose canned, make sure they are labeled “no salt added.” Use fresh poultry, fish and lean meats rather than canned or processed. To kick up the flavor, season foods with herbs, spices and other salt-free seasonings. Do not add salt to the water when cooking rice or pasta. Rinse canned foods containing salt to remove some of the sodium.
Read the food labels at the grocery store to get a better idea of the amount of sodium in individual foods. Focus particularly on the Percent Daily Value information on the nutrition label to see the percent of your daily allowance you’re getting from a serving of a particular food. This will help you compare products and make healthier choices. Keep in mind it may take a week or two to get used to eating items with less or no salt.
For more information about reducing your salt intake, contact Jessica Nickels, OSU Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, at 237-1228.
Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.