Recently, there’s been quite a bit of talk about sugar: hidden sugars, good sugars and bad sugars in our diet. There’s another white, grainy culprit, however, that has been cast to the wayside. It has been quietly sitting on the sideline while sugar takes the brunt of the negativity freely thrown out by individuals striving toward a healthier life. So far, we’ve kept it out of the limelight. But no more.
Salt, I’m coming for you.
According to the American Heart Association, over 97 percent of adults eat too much salt, or sodium, on a daily basis. I can’t even try to deny that I’m one of them. Salt, just as with sugar, is in almost everything.
The average recommendation for sodium intake is 1,500 mg daily for an adult. Although sodium is an important part of our diet as it helps us absorb fluids, too much can lead to health problems. Too much sodium causes your body to retain water so that your blood volume is higher, according to MayoClinic.com. This causes high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure is a risk factor for congestive heart failure and stroke. The high volume of blood moving through the blood vessels in your kidneys can lead to kidney disease.
Sodium is hidden in many different foods, and under the guise of different names. A 12 oz. can of Diet Coke, for example, contains about 40 mg of sodium. Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glutamate [MSG] and sodium benzoate are some common ingredients that contribute to sodium intake.
Little by little, it all adds up.
Under the guidelines of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, food labels cannot claim a product is “healthy” if it exceeds 480 mg of sodium per reference amount. “Meal type” products must not exceed 600 mg of sodium per labeled serving size.
The average American gets 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, according to MayoClinic.com. High-sodium foods include cheeses, pickles, olives, processed meats, canned soups, breads and fast foods. Unprocessed foods are usually lower in sodium. You can reduce your sodium intake by choosing low-sodium packaged options and avoiding salt and salty seasonings.
I personally do my best to avoid processed foods. My weakness, however, is chips and guacamole – both of which have generous levels of sodium.
Putting it into perspective:
|Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving|
|Very low sodium||35 milligrams or less per serving|
|Low sodium||140 milligrams or less per serving|
|Reduced (or less) sodium||Usual sodium level is reduced by 25 percent per serving|
|Light (for sodium-reduced products)||If the food is “low calorie,” “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving|
|Light in sodium||If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving|