Reduce Salt Intake to Reduce Health Risks


Salt Pouring from Shaker

Sodium is one of those things where if a little is good, a lot is not better. Too little sodium and your nerves and muscles don't work as well. Some sodium is essential to helping your body regulate fluid balance. Overdo it, however, and you could be increasing your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, especially if you have a family history of those problems.

How Much is Too Much?

The majority of adults and children in the US eat too much sodium. For adults, average consumption is 3,400 milligrams a day, more than double the American Heart Association's recommended daily limit of 1,500 milligrams a day. The current recommendation for children is also 1,500 milligrams a day. Unless you're a foundry worker, fire fighter or competitive athlete, you probably don't need as much salt as you're eating.

Sodium Sources

Most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods: canned soups and vegetables, cured meats, pizza, cheese and snacks. When you add salt at the table, you're getting a double whammy. Read food labels to find out how much salt is in your food. The AHA check mark on a label indicates a food that is lower in sodium than its regular counterpart. Look for fish and poultry that hasn't been injected with salt solution (the label may say “saline” instead of “salt”).

How to Trim the Sodium

If you have concerns about your salt intake, try tracking it for a few days by reading labels and measuring the amount of salt you add to foods. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and do your own cooking rather than used processed or convenience foods. Cut back on salty snacks, or nix them completely.

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