Salt – When Too Much is Too Much

Monday, November 12, 2012 2:11 PM

A dash of salt here and there for flavoring can’t hurt, right? While moderate amounts of sodium in your daily diet are fine, it’s often easy to eat more than necessary. Look on any label – especially those of pre-packaged and more-processed foods—and sodium is almost certain to be one of the ingredients.

The American Heart Association recommends 2,300 mg daily as the highest daily acceptable level, and if you are over 51 years, African American or have heart disease including high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1,500 mg.

Too much salt can lead to health problems, including cardiovascular disease particularly hypertension. For this reason, it’s never a bad idea to learn some quick ways to pass on the salt.

Mary Bennett, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at NorthShore, offers the following tips to help reduce your daily sodium intake:

  • Read the label. Before purchasing and consuming food, read the label. If the total sodium value on the label is more than 5% of the recommended daily value of sodium, you may want to reconsider purchasing or at least limit your portion size.
  • Pass on passing the salt shaker. Maybe the easiest way to avoid eating too much salt is to not have the shaker on the table during mealtimes. If you are looking to add additional flavors to a dish, use herbs and spices. There are also sodium-free mixes available that can provide lots of flavor without the sodium.
  • Eat in, not out. More often than not when you eat out – especially at fast food restaurants—more sodium will be added than what you would typically use at home. The best way to reduce your salt intake when you’re out to eat is to avoid adding additional garnishes (pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc.) to your meal and to watch your portion size.
  • Opt for the low- or reduced-sodium choices at the grocery store. If you can, choose natural ingredients and skip the frozen, processed and packaged food options.

What do you do to limit your sodium consumption? What is one salty food you couldn’t live without?

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