Salt is an important staple in our diet. It makes our foods tastier and helps us feel full. However, too much salt is problematic and can lead to disease. Keep reading to find out how salt impacts our health and weight, how much salt we need in our diet, and how to lower your intake.
Sodium is found naturally in foods. It is also added during the manufacturing and preparation of foods, in the form of table salt (made up of sodium and chlorine). While sodium is essential to our health, too much can be problematic.
• Helps our nerves communicate with each other
• Supports the heart and helps it function properly
• Necessary to regulate and maintain optimal blood pressure
• Causes all muscles to contract and relax
• Crucial in regulating water in the body
Too much sodium:
• Excess water in the blood stream increases our blood pressure and can increase our risk of heart attack, kidney damage, and stroke.
• Pulls water into the blood vessels and causes your body to retain water. This is what causes puffy feet, legs, hands, ankles, and the puffy look in our face. It also contributes to the bloated appearance in our belly (edema).
How much sodium do we need? How much is too much?
The recommended daily amount of sodium is between 1500 mg and 2300 mg per day. Consuming more than 2300 mg, or 1 teaspoon, daily can impact your health in a negative way.
Did you know? The average North American consumes about 3500 mg of sodium per day. That’s around twice the recommended level for good health. It is also more than enough to cause water retention.
Salt in your day:
• 5% is added during cooking
• 6% is added at the table
• 12% occurs naturally
• 77% is added in food processing
Tips for reducing your sodium intake:
1. Eat fewer processed foods; instead, incorporate more fresh foods in your diet.
2. Avoid using salt at the table and use as little as possible in your cooking.
3. Prepare home cooked meals; it is difficult to control salt intake when eating out. Season food with lemon or lime juice, vinegars, fresh garlic, herbs and spices.
4. Limit salted snack foods like chips, crackers, popcorn, and nuts. Watch out for pickles, pickled foods, relishes, salsa, dips, chutney, sauerkraut, and olives.
5. Read food labels for sodium content and choose foods with less sodium per serving.