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Healthy You

Salt Safety: How to Manage Your Consumption

Saturday, March 11, 2017 8:48 AM

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that the average American should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day – which is about 1 teaspoon of table salt. People who have hypertension or are middle-aged and older should limit their daily salt intake to 1,500 milligrams.

Salt Consumption

According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 10% of our food intake is made up of natural salt (sodium). The average American tends to add another 5-10% while at the table or cooking, and 75% of our total salt intake is from processed foods and salt added to our meals at restaurants.

To help us understand why we need to monitor our sodium consumption, Mary Suarez, Outpatient Dietitian at NorthShore, explains what too much salt intake can do to the body:

  • High blood pressure. Salt often contributes to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart failure or even kidney disease.
  • Weight gain. Excess sodium in the diet can cause the body to retain water which leads to puffiness, bloating and weight gain.
  • Osteoporosis. A high sodium diet can deplete your calcium. When you take in too much sodium your body removes the sodium in your urine, taking calcium with it. This then depletes your calcium level as your body will compensate and obtain calcium from your bones.

While it is not easy to know exactly how much salt you consume in your diet, Mary suggests these steps to make it more manageable:

  • Know your numbers. Talk to your physician to see what your recommended sodium intake is.
  • Read labels. Once you know how much salt you should have, read labels to see how much sodium is in each serving. It’s important to note serving size as well and how many servings you have.
  • Record. There are many food-tracking apps out there - such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It! – that can help you track how much sodium you are consuming.
  • Eat fresh. Raw fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium – with most being sodium free. They are also packed with potassium, which helps minimize the effects that sodium has on blood pressure.
  • Add flavor. To avoid adding salt, you can flavor your dishes with spices and herbs.
  • Remove salt from the table to help you avoid adding salt. Also, refrain from salting your water when boiling pasta or rice.

Where was the most surprising place that you found sodium lurking in your diet?