By: Nikki Nies
When reading nutrition fact labels, everyone knows to check calories, more recently people have become more aware of the fat content, but another aspect of the nutrition fact label that has not received as much exposure, but everyone should be more aware of the salt content. A lot of times salt and sodium are synonymous. I’m guilty of mixing the two up as well. However, to clarify NaCl is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride. So when one is talking about the salt content, one referring to NaCl, which one can consume 5000 mg of NaCl since sodium is only 40% of NaCl. Make sense?
A lot of foods may be ideal meal options for many, if looking at the calories and fat, however there may be a hidden source of weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease. What’s the recommended sodium content? Healthy adults should aim for no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily. With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.
Sodium is a trace mineral, made of sodium and chloride. When sodium content is naturally provided in foods that is an easy way to consume one’s recommended trace needs of this mineral. Salt is needed to hold water in the blood vessels, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, maintain pH and hydration and regulates water balance. If too much water’s in the body, the amount of blood’s increased., which makes the heart work harder. However, many Americans consume more than 75% of their sodium in the added form.
In cooking, sodium has a lot of functions—from giving flavor, used as a preservative to prevent food borne pathogens, bind ingredients, enhance color and is used as a stabilizer.
The American Heart Association has stated if Americans reduced their sodium content by1500 mg of sodium, the number of high blood pressure cases would decrease by 26% and save more than $26 billion in healthcare costs over just a year..
With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium. When grocery shopping or eating out, be conscious of these commonly used terms associated with sodium—they don’t mean the same thing.
Interpreting Sodium Terms:
|Sodium-free||Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving|
|Very low sodium||35 mg or less per serving|
|Low sodium||140 mg or less of sodium|
|Reduced (or less) sodium||Usual sodium level reduced by 25% per serving|
|Light (for sodium reduced products)||If food’s “low calorie”, “low calorie” and sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving|
|Light sodium||If sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving|
How can you reduce your sodium intake?
- Use low sodium or no salt added vegetables—such as Rienzi products
- Be aware of deli meats high sodium content—limit consumption to 2-3 times a week
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over canned when possible
- Avoid adding salt when eating
- Choose foods high in potassium, which counteract the “feeling” of needs salt
- Such as white beans, green leafy greens, baked potatoes
- Add lemon juice to fresh fish and vegetables
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a great meal concept caters to multiple caloric needs, such as one who wants to eat a 1600 calorie daily, but also provides servings for someone who wants to eat 2000 kcal daily. Thankfully, the DASH diet provides the same goal: to lower blood pressure. Even if one does not have hypertension yet, the DASH diet has a lot of great food suggestions for those with pre-hypertension and/or wanting to eat healthy.
Using these tips, one can be preventive, proactive as well as keep their high blood pressure under control. Check out the DASH diet’s website, it contains everything from recommended sodium intake, DASH diet ebooks, great, easy recipes and media.