It is probably time to decrease the sodium content of your diet. Sodium chloride, or salt, is the most common food preservative. Therefore, it is added to most of our foods. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends that the general population limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg/day. Additionally, if you have high blood pressure or have been diagnosed with prehypertension, you should limit your daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg/day.
Unfortunately, most Americans age 2 years and older consume more than 3,400 mg/day; nearly twice the recommended amount! This is a concern because excessive sodium intake is linked to increased risk for stroke and heart attack in some people.
There is some good news related to sodium and your diet. Sodium is found in high quantities in foods we shouldn’t be eating that much of to begin with: processed, packaged, and fast foods. So, if you stick to whole foods and ingredients such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy, you’ll automatically start paring down your sodium intake.
Sodium is everywhere in our diet and sometimes hard to avoid. However, nutrition labels do list sodium amounts and food manufacturers must follow strict guidelines on their products. Because food labels are somewhat confusing and misleading, some definitions are listed below:
• Sodium free: Less than 5 mg per serving*
• Low sodium: 140 mg or less per serving*
• Reduced sodium: 25 percent less sodium than appropriate reference group
• Light in sodium: 50 percent less sodium than appropriate reference group
• No Salt Added: Unsalted but must also declare “This is not a sodium-free food”
• Lightly salted: 50 percent less sodium than normally added to appropriate reference food
* Note the serving size on the label.
Sodium is pretty easy to identify in typically high-salt foods such as frozen dinners, canned goods, and packaged snack foods. But many other foods might not be so obvious. For example, meat in its pure animal flesh form has a limited amount of naturally occurring salt. However, meat processors often inject meat and poultry with a salt solution to increase bulk, tenderness and flavor. Other meat products may have salty marinades or sauces added to them.
Below are some tips for reducing your sodium.
• Condiments: select low- or reduced-sodium or no-salt added varieties.
• Vegetables: select fresh, frozen or canned (low-sodium or no-salt-added).
• Protein: select fresh poultry, fish and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked or processed.
• Cereals: select ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium
• Cured foods: limit cured foods (bacon ham, deli meats), foods packed in brine (pickles, pickled vegetables, olives, sauerkraut), and condiments (mustard, horseradish, ketchup, BBQ sauce). Limit even lower-sodium versions of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce because these are still high in sodium.
• Starches: Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Limit instant or flavored rice, pasta and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
• Convenience foods: avoid when possible. If unavoidable, choose those that are lower in sodium. Reduce frozen dinners, mixed dishes like pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups, broths, and salad dressings.
• Canned foods: Rinse canned foods, such as tuna and canned beans, to remove approximately one-third of the sodium.
• Spices: Use spices instead of salt. Flavor foods with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, or salt-free seasoning blends.
Remember to always read labels when in doubt. If you still need assistance, talk to a registered dietician, or a certified health coach.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.