Everyone needs salt. The cells in our muscles and nerves need it to function and it helps our bodies keep fluids in balance.
But most everyone knows that too much salt isn’t good for you. What’s not so clear is where we get most of the sodium in our diet (hint: it’s not just that shaker on your grandmother’s table or an unholy combination of bacon, french fries, and pretzels).
Where Does Most of the Sodium in Our Diet Come from?
Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants. When sodium is added to processed foods, it cannot be removed. More than 40% of sodium intake comes from the following ten types of foods:
- · Breads and rolls
- · Cold cuts and cured meats such as deli or packaged ham or turkey
- · Pizza
- · Fresh and processed poultry
- · Soups
- · Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers
- · Cheese
- · Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)
- · Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf with tomato sauce
- · Snacks such as chips, pretzels, and popcorn
How much is too much?
The average daily sodium intake for Americans age 2 years and older is more than 3,400 mg. Limit your daily sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (equal to a teaspoon), unless your doctor says something else.
What does “salt sensitive” mean? Who is “salt sensitive”?
Although nearly everyone can benefit from sodium reduction, some people are more salt sensitive than others-that is, they experience greater changes in blood pressure in relation to changes in sodium consumption. These individuals often include those who are older, African American, have high blood pressure, have diabetes or have chronic kidney disease. No screening test exists for salt sensitive people.
How can I tell if a packaged food is high in sodium?
Check the nutrition facts label for sodium. Foods with 20% or more of the “daily value” of sodium are high in sodium.
How do I avoid salt when I eat out?
- Ask that foods be prepared without added salt or MSG, commonly used in Asian foods.
- Avoid choosing menu items that have salty ingredients such as bacon, pickles, olives, and cheese.
- Avoid choosing menu items that include foods that are pickled, cured, smoked, or made with soy sauce or broth.
- Choose fruit or vegetables as a side dish, instead of chips or fries.