Weekly Wellness: Skip the salt
COLUMBIA - As we continue with Heart Month, we need to discuss the connection between salt and high blood pressure. Salt is an essential nutrient in our daily diet. The recommended daily allowance of sodium is 1,500 milligrams. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams every day. More than twice the recommended allowance. Why is this a problem? Sodium causes the body to hold excess fluid. If you are a person at risk of high blood pressure, this excess fluid can increase blood pressure. Eating less sodium can help to reduce your risk of developing other conditions associated with too much sodium, such as stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.
While many of us are shaking the salt shaker over our plates (sometimes before we have even tasted the food), that''s NOT the largest contributor to our consumption. Approximately 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from sodium added to processed foods and restaurant foods.
Common table salt is sodium chloride, which is approximately 40 percent sodium by weight. About 90 percent of Americans' sodium intake comes from sodium chloride. Understanding just how much sodium is in table salt can help you take measures to control how much you're taking in. A 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium.
Reading nutrition labels is very important - especially if you need to watch your sodium intake. The amount of sodium per serving is listed in milligrams, abbreviated "mg." The sodium content of packaged and prepared foods can vary widely. Compare the sodium content of similar products and choose the one with the lowest amount of sodium you can find.
Food packaging may also include some of these sodium-related terms:
- Sodium-Free: Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride
- Very Low Sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving
- Low-Sodium: 140 milligrams or less per serving
- Reduced (or less) sodium: At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level
- Light (for sodium-reduced products): If the food is "low calorie" ad "low fat" and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
- Light in sodium: If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
Food labels cannot claim a product is "healthy" if it has more than 480 mg of sodium per labeled serving (for individual foods) or ore than 600 mg of sodium per labeled serving for meals/main dishes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
You can also read the ingredient list to identify sources of sodium in your food. Watch for the words "soda' (referring to sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda) and "sodium" (including sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glumate [MSG] and sodium benzoate).
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