True, sodium is an essential element for humans and animals alike, and for some plant species. Sodium maintains the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base balance, muscle contractions and, even, its nerve transmission. Indeed, sodium is essential to life.
Yet, experts have become increasingly concerned about sodium intake, especially as high amounts of sodium have been added to food and beverages in recent years. High sodium, they believe, is contributing to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
According to the American Heart Association, healthy adults should eat less than 2400 mg of sodium a day. This adds up to about 1 teaspoon of sodium chloride (salt) each day. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 1500 mg or less of sodium per day. Unsuspecting adults can get much more than this in their daily diet, especially if they’re eating on the run. Left unattended, a high sodium diet can mean big trouble. High sodium intake can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, among others.
Are you trying to figure out how much sodium is too much? Want to learn more about one of life’s essential elements? Check out these Top 5 Reasons Why Salt and Sodium Matter. Talk to your doctor. Learn more about sodium in your daily diet. It may save your life.
1. A diet high in sodium has been found to increase your risk of heart disease, especially in overweight individuals, according to an important study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (1999). Overweight adults with the highest sodium intake have a 63% greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to their counterparts who limit their sodium intake.
2. About 60% of adults with high blood pressure are salt sensitive. That means some adults need to take strong measures to limit sodium in their everyday diet. These health and wellness measures include adopting a low sodium diet, restricting fast food and processed foods, regular check ups with their medical doctor, and exercise. (Note: Blood pressure is considered “high” when it tops 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic).)
3. Low sodium in adults is extremely rare. Why? Simply because there is so much sodium added to our foods today. But, older adults can sometimes suffer from low sodium. Low sodium can also result from disease, excess fluid or water in the body, drugs, and more. Regular check ups with a medical doctor and health care professionals can help prevent adults from developing this condition.
4. Fast food and processed food are high sodium culprits. Public health experts are working with industry to explore ways to reduce sodium in these foods and increase public awareness of this hidden danger. Today, companies are offering healthy alternatives, like “low sodium” and “no sodium” varieties and brands.
5. There are lots of ways to cut the salt and sodium from your diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is the first step to a healthy lifestyle. From there, avoiding fast food and processed foods will go a long way in reducing your sodium levels. Finally, more and more people today are taking the salt shakers off their table to cut sodium from their diets.
Consult Your Doctor and Health Care Professionals
Regular check ups with your medical doctor and health care professionals combined with a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet and nutrition, will optimize your overall health and well-being. By avoiding high sodium foods, you can prevent problems before they start.
Are you still concerned about your sodium intake? Do you have a family history of high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke? Are you overweight or obese? Check in with your doctor and health care professionals for guidance on proper diet and nutrition, exercise, and low sodium diet strategies.
High Sodium Foods to Avoid
Saltine Crackers, Crackers
Potato Chips, Tortilla Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn
Pancakes, Waffles, Pastries
Seasoning Packets and Sauces
Canned Tomato Sauce, Spaghetti Sauce
Pickled Vegetables and Seasonings, Sauerkraut
Vegetable Juice, Milk, Gatorade
American, Blue, Parmesan, Feta, Cottage, Specialty Cheeses
Ham, Bacon, Lunch meat, Beef Jerky
Dried and Smoked Fish
Canned Salmon, Canned Shrimp
Corned Beef Hash
Canned Chili, Canned Soup, Canned Stew
Canned Ravioli, Canned Spaghetti
Boxed Macaroni and Cheese
Chicken or Beef Pot Pie
Soy Sauce, Catsup, Other Condiments
Boxed or Bagged Stuffing Mix
Salted Nuts, Trail Mix
Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride)
American Heart Association
Quick Facts on Sodium
Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium (1,500 mg/Day or Less)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009)
10 Ways to Cut Sodium Without Sacrificing Flavor
Erin N. Marcus, MD in Huffington Post (July 13, 2010)