Thu
Feb
3
2011

Tips for Reducing and Controlling Your Daily Salt Intake

daily salt intake

Salt is one of the misunderstood spices found in our food today. With the prevalence of processed foods in our daily diets and the increasing tenancy for individuals to dine out more often, salt is being consumed in greater and greater amounts and becoming a real concern within the American diet.

In general, dietary guidelines recommend that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of salt per the day. However, between diet sodas and double cheeseburgers, the 2,300 mg recommendation for daily salt intake can quickly be exceeded within a single, poorly planned meal.

Common table salt is comprised of sodium and chloride. Salt and other ingredients containing sodium are typically often found in foods that are processed and/or packaged.

Regular salt intake is vital and essential to good health and wellness and plays a role in several key bodily functions required to support life. Below is a list of several beneficial health aspects associated with regularly consuming salt:

Health Benefits Associated with Consuming Salt in Moderation

  • Sodium is required to help regulate several bodily functions including blood pressure and fluid volume. In addition, sodium also assists the lining of blood vessels to maintain a normal balance of pressure.

  • Sodium assists in delivering nutrients to the cells.

  • Sodium assists in keeping calcium and several other minerals in a soluble state when in the blood.

  • Sodium assists in regulating muscle contractions.

  • Sodium assists in the function of nerve stimulation by increasing the conductivity in nerve cells to promote cellular communication and the processing of information.

  • Sodium helps maintain the correct fluid balance within the cells.

  • Sodium is required for the production of hydrochloric acid within the stomach.

  • Sodium assists in clearing mucous plugs and sticky phlegm within the lungs. This is especially true for individuals with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

  • Sodium helps in regulating fluid balance when body temperature rises.

  • Sodium and water energize and activate the body.

However, like virtually everything in life, too much salt intake can result in several detrimental effects including increases in blood pressure that results in making the heart work harder, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes. This being said, there is a balance in salt intake that needs to be struck in order to support good health and wellness. However, too many foods are processed using high concentrations of salt. This, in turn, has led to an imbalance that elevated the negative effects of consuming too much salt.

Hence, provided below are several tips for reducing the amount of salt consumed within a typical daily diet. The tips are easy to implement and can be performed by virtually anyone.

  • Be Aware of Condiments that Contain a High Salt Content. A single tablespoon of ketchup can contain as much as 180 mg of sodium. Instead of reaching for the ketchup bottle, try using a slice of fresh tomato and a dash of vinegar on your burger. For other sandwiches, remember that hummus only contains about 40 mg of sodium per tablespoon.

  • Consume Healthy Fresh Vegetables. Canned vegetables are typically packed with sodium as a preservative and flavoring agent. While you might think you’re doing the healthy thing by loading up on canned vegetables, you can actually be loading up on sodium instead. Rinse all canned foods in water to wash away some of the sodium that was added during processing. For individuals that may not have access to fresh vegetables, try frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.

  • Put Together Low Sodium food Parties. Getting together with families and friends to exchange low sodium dishes will help you get great ideas for new recipes and fight food boredom by making the same dishes for dinner every night. The more people you invite to the party, the more likely you will be to go home with a week’s worth of dinners.

  • Reduce your consumption of processed foods. Approximately 75% of all sodium intake comes from processed foods. Hence, reducing the number and amount of processed foods you consume is a great place to start. Instead, buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish and avoid adding salt during preparation. When purchasing frozen foods always read the food label to ensure that the salt content is not too high.

  • When preparing and cooking meals do not add salt at the beginning of the process. Instead, wait until you are ready to serve the food and then add the salt. If you add the salt at the beginning of the process the salt will disperse throughout the food it will seem as if you did not add any salt. Instead, add the salt at the end of the cooking process so that the salt is on the surface of the food. By doing so, you will eliminate the tempation to add salt when you sit down to eat your meal since the salt is on the surface of the food and hence, acknowledged by your taste buds.

  • Read the food labels for all dressings and condiments as they may contain a high level of salt. For instance, a 1.5 ounce serving of Newman’s low fat Italian dressing contains nearly 30% of the recommended daily allowance for salt while a 2 ounce serving of Ranch dressing contains approximately 25% of the daily recommended allowance.

  • Wherever possible purchase low, reduced, or no-salt-added food products.

  • Always read the food labels on all foods to ensure that you are aware of the salt content, including food items like baking powder, baking soda, and MSG.

  • When cooking and where possible use low sodium soups, broths, and bouillion.

  • Eliminate the addition of salt to water when cooking cereals, rice, or pasta.

  • Read all food labels to see if ingredients like disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium alginate, to name a few, are present as they will contain salt.

  • Limit the amount of salty chips, nuts, and seeds consumed and where possible buy purchase these products in the salt free version.

  • Substitute various herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends when cooking and at the table.

  • Always be aware of the levels of salt in your overall diet both at home and at restaurants. This includes all condiments and processed convenience foods.

  • Always read the food labels for processed food products when shopping and prior to actually purchasing them. Search for lower sodium options in cereals, canned vegetables, pasta sauces, crackers, and any food that contains salt.

  • Balance meals that are high in sodium with fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium.

  • Ask about salt levels in foods purchased at restaurants. In most cases the restaurant chef can reduce or omit the salt that would normally by added to the meal that you wish to purchase.

As previously mentioned, there is a balance between consuming too little or too much salt. Salt plays a necessary role in several bodily functions and is required for the body to perform optimally. However, on the other end of the spectrum, too much salt can be detrimental to good health. Hence, a balance is required.

This being said, monitoring your salt intake is no different than monitoring your level of daily physical activity, your total daily caloric intake, the number of hours you sleep per night, and so on. By being “in tune” with your body and your habits you will be able to recognize shortfalls in your life and modify them to that of a healthier, more fit, and disease free lifestyle.

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