It’s not hard to find foods with unhealthy amounts of salt. Although salt and sodium are used interchangeably, they are different. Salt (sodium chloride) contains approximately 40% sodium. Frozen foods, fast food and processed food are some of the worst offenders. Most packaged or processed foods are high in sodium. Too much sodium on a regular basis can be extremely hazardous to your health. It can lead to various health problems including stroke, heart failure, cancer and kidney disease.
According to the American Heart Association (AMA), the Americans eat an unhealthy amount of sodium. The AMA recommends that on average, a person should ingest 1,500mg of sodium per day. Their research shows that the average person consumes nearly twice that amount (3,400mg).
There are also many products that you may not realize are high in sodium, including the following foods:
- Salad Dressing
- Pickled Foods
- Smoked Foods
- Food with MSG
- Processed Cheese (American Cheese)
- Canned Beans
- Canned Tomatoes
Many people have found ways to add flavor without using salt. There are substitutes for salt, such as potassium. Potassium tastes like salt yet it won’t raise your blood pressure. It is usually safe to eat salt substitutes as long as there are no health issues that prevent you doing so. Sometimes medications or certain diseases like kidney disease can cause a negative reaction to potassium.
The American Heart Association
The American Heart association has long championed low sodium diets for better heart health. Since the early 1900s the AMA has made lots of progress educating people on the effects of diet on your heart. But progress is an ongoing battle. It takes effort from many different groups of people including you. The government, doctors, healthcare professionals and private businesses all need to cooperate to promote public health. Here are some key strategies the AMA uses to do their part:
- Encouraging people to eat whole, fresh foods.
- Educating the public on how to make smart decisions when it comes to food.
- Advocating sustainable farming.
- Making healthy foods more accessible.
It’s important to become mindful of what foods you eat. Part of this is paying attention to things like the labels, portions and using your knowledge to make smart choices. Below are some tips to help you avoid eating too much sodium.
Eat Fresh Foods – fresh meats have much less sodium than processed or cured meats. The same goes for many canned vegetables. Foods with long shelf lives are often packed with salt.
Read the Labels – become a label sleuth. You may be surprised to find out how much sodium is in some of your favorite foods. There is plenty of useful information to be found on food labels.
Compare Brands – not all brands are created equal. Some brands which produce the same foods may have drastically different amounts of sodium.
Choose Spices Wisely – try to opt for spices or seasonings without extra salt. For instance, try using garlic powder instead of garlic salt.
Do Your Research – before you decide to start eating, do some investigating. Many restaurants will offer nutritional information online. You can also ask staff members.
Be Careful for Sneaky Sources of Salt – reading the label really helps with this one, because it’s easy to forget. Some foods may not taste salty but are high in sodium, such as cottage cheese.
Be Patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Many people who make the jump to a low sodium diet need some time to adjust. Initially foods may seem to taste too bland. Our tastes and preferences are mostly learned. After about two months your tastes will acclimate and you may notice that the old foods you used to eat are now taste too salty.