While consuming sodium is not necessarily a bad thing, the problem for most Americans is that they’re consuming far too much than they actually need. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the average person should be consuming less than 2.4 grams per day, which equates to 2,400 milligrams (mg). To put it simply, that’s 1 teaspoon of normal table salt... per day, not per meal. If you think you’re consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium, use this guide to cut down your daily intake.
Sodium And The Human Body
Sodium is a chemical element that occurs naturally in many foods and is needed by the body for proper function. Normal table salt is a mixture of sodium and chlorine. Here are some important facts about sodium and its relation to the human body:
- The kidneys are responsible for controlling the amount of sodium in the body.
- Sodium is needed for the nerves and muscles to function properly.
- The balance of fluids within the body is affected by the amount of sodium present. In other words, sodium helps regulate a person’s fluid balance.
- Consuming too much sodium will lead to excess amounts that the kidneys cannot process. This causes a build-up of sodium within the blood, which can lead to a host of medical issues like high blood pressure.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, or you must control your sodium levels due to a medical condition like kidney diseases or congestive heart failure, here are 10 ways to reduce sodium intake in your daily diet:
1. Watch The Sodium In Your Vegetables
When you go out shopping for vegetables, make sure you are buying the variety that does not have any salt added. Whether they are fresh, frozen or canned, it is important to look for any indication that salt has been added. If possible, look specifically for produce items that feature a “no salt added” label or any other label along those lines.
2. Drain And Rinse Canned Foods
Certain canned foods like Vienna sausage or tuna may contain excess sodium from the liquid they are packaged in. Before using or consuming these and other similar canned products, make sure you drain any fluids from the can before serving. You can even lightly rinse these canned foods to remove more sodium.
3. Be Careful When Consuming “Quick” Foods
Quick foods or meals include microwavable snacks and meals, canned soups and other ready-to-eat foods that require little to no preparation. Unlike a home cooked meal where you can control the amount of sodium used in preparation, these quick foods often contain an excess of sodium. Try to avoid these types of foods if possible, or opt for lighter versions that have less sodium.
4. Read The Nutrition Labels Properly
Make sure you know how to properly read nutrition labels to avoid consuming too much sodium per day. Certain foods are known for containing nearly an entire day’s worth of sodium in one serving. Always read the nutrition labels properly, and make sure you are noting the serving size indicated in the nutritional information.
5. Start Using A Variety Of Herbs And Spices
Salt and salt-based seasoning is one of the main reasons why people are consuming too much sodium each day. While it is a simple, affordable way of making a meal tastier, it’s not very healthy. Look into other herbs and spices you can use to give your meals more flavor, and shop specifically for salt-free seasonings at the grocery.
6. Try To Avoid Canned Or Processed Meats, Fish And Poultry
When shopping for meats, fish or poultry, the fresh variety is always the preferred choice when trying to reduce your sodium intake. The processed and canned varieties tend to include excess sodium. Coupled with the salt that people tend to use while cooking, the sodium content of one dish is nearly doubled.
7. Look For Labels That Indicate Reduced Sodium
When shopping for snacks or food items, look for any reduced sodium options. Key words and labels to scan on the packaging include:
- Low sodium
- Reduced sodium
- Light sodium
Make sure you also read the nutritional information on the packaging to determine the amount of sodium you’re consuming per serving.
8. Sodium Does Not Mean “Salty”
People often consider salty as being synonymous with sodium. However, there are certain foods, sauces, drinks and other consumables that contain sodium that lack the salty taste. For example, a chocolate chip cookie may taste sweet, but can also have a high sodium contact without being salty at all. Another example is the sodium contents of ketchup. Just be mindful that there could be sodium in about anything you consume, even if it lacks a salty taste.