Nearly all Americans consume substantially more sodium than needed. Absolutely everyone, healthy or not, can benefit from consuming less salt.
A high consumption of salt, comprised of sodium chloride, is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates that the average American adult consumes nearly double the recommended daily intake of sodium per day.
The Dietary Guidelines maximum daily sodium recommendation is 2,300 mg for healthy individuals and 1,500 mg for people at risk. Individuals at risk include:
- Any person with hypertension
- People over 40 years of age, which is nearly 70 percent of the U.S. adult population
Researchers predict that if Americans reduce sodium levels to 1,500 mg per day then some 90,000 deaths could be averted and $18 billion in medical cost could be saved annually.
Why is Salt so Bad?
Water and sodium stick together in the body. When you consume too much sodium you will also retain more water which causes you to gain weight. This is why consuming high sodium foods, such as cheese and pretzels, often leave you feeling thirsty, bloated, and puffy.
A high consumption of sodium over time will lead to high amount of water in the body. Extra fluid creates more work for heart to pump through the additional fluid and extra pressure on the arteries. The added work load will eventually begin to take its tow and may lead to cardiovascular damage and a rise in blood pressure.
High blood pressure is often dubbed as the silent killer since no other symptoms may be present but the stress on the body eventually puts the individual at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, and other serious health conditions.
Reduce Salt Intake
Cutting down on salt intake has much more to do with just putting down the salt shaker. Nearly 75% of our sodium intake comes from prepared and packed foods. Besides the obvious answer of consuming more freshly prepared whole foods, here are some simple steps you can start taking to lower your sodium intake and improve your overall health:
- Opt for Lower Sodium Options
Always grab the lower sodium option for soup, condiments, dressings, and juices. Sodium content varies between brands. Read and compare food labels for all processed foods and go with the lowest sodium option. For example, there is a big difference in sodium content between different brands of cereal, bread, and sauces. High sodium foods, like Ramen Noodles can be substituted for plain noodles.
- Rinse and Drain
Rinse and drain all your canned foods to significantly cut down on the sodium levels. In the case of canned beans, the sodium content is lowered by 41%.
- Use Fresh over Packaged
Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and poultry all consume much less sodium than their packaged counterparts.
- Prepare foods using little or no salt
Skip using salt in cooking pasta, rice, or vegetables. Use herbs and spices for a healthier alternative in place of salt.
Controlling your salt intake will reduce water retention and thus drop water weight and make your blood pressure drop. Next time, say no to adding more salt at the dinner table.