Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
Salt (sodium) is abundant in the American diet. The problem is that sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which can contribute to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. Some people can decrease blood pressure by decreasing sodium intake. It is important to know where sodium lurks in your food and how you can eat less.
According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 2,900 to 4,300 milligrams of sodium per day. It is recommended that the average American consumes no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, so most people should decrease their sodium intake.
For some people, the recommendation is even less. Adults 51 and older, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease tend to be more responsive to the blood pressure raising effects of sodium. That is why the recommendation for sodium for this group of people is no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Research has found that as sodium is decreased, blood pressure is reduced.
People consume sodium from table salt, which is made of sodium and chloride. Salt serves many purposes — it is used in curing meat, enhancing the flavor of food and maintaining the moisture content of food.
Pre-prepared frozen food, canned soups and other canned foods are high in sodium. In addition, bread, chicken and chicken-mixed dishes each account for 7 percent of the sodium that is consumed in the U.S. Pizza accounts for 6 percent, while pasta and pasta dishes account for 5 percent of sodium consumption.
There are many things to do to help reduce sodium intake:
- Read food labels, which list how much sodium is in each serving of food. Foods you should pay particular attention to include salted snacks, fish that is canned in oil or brine like sardines or tuna, lunch/deli meats, canned foods and juices, cheese, seasoned salts, meat tenderizers and condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise and salad dressing. A frozen dinner can have an entire day’s worth of sodium in one meal!
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, which have minimal sodium.
- Prepare your own food so you can control the amount of salt that goes in to it.
- Use spices and herbs to enhance the flavor of foods instead of salt, seasoned salt, condiments and dressings.
- Ask that no salt be added to food when eating out.
You may think you like salt so much you could never give it up. Just remember that you were not born loving salt. We develop a taste for it. If you work at it, you can learn to desire it less. When you do, you will savor the natural flavor of the food more and you will enjoy the health benefits as your blood pressure goes down.