Curb salt use, lose its hazards

CAMP RED CLOUD -- What's so bad about a little sodium?

While sodium is important for a variety of functions in the body, the average American consumes three times the amount recommended.

Data show that 80 percent of the U.S. population is salt-sensitive, which means that their blood pressure is prone to rise in response to excess sodium in their diet.

In addition, 97 percent of all children in the U.S. are eating too much salt (sodium chloride), putting them at early risk for high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is linked to stroke and heart disease.

Today's generation of children may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents because risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes are starting to appear in young people.

How Much Sodium is Too Much?

The newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans strongly recommends a reduction in sodium.

For the first time the Dietary Guidelines are telling people who are 51 and older, all African-Americans and anyone suffering from hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease,
to reduce daily sodium intake to little more than half a teaspoon.

That group includes about half of the population, and those who are most at risk of having higher blood pressure due to sodium intake.

For everyone else, the government continues to recommend about a teaspoon a day -- 2,300 milligrams, or about one-third less than the average person usually consumes.

Think Beyond the Salt Shaker

About 75 percent of sodium in the diet comes from sodium added to processed foods and beverages.

Restaurant foods are another leading source of sodium. Even fresh meat, especially pork and poultry, are being injected with sodium to add weight and moisture.

All of these factors make it difficult for Americans to meet the recommended level of intake without preparing foods from scratch and carefully reading food labels.

Another factor that contributes to our excessive consumption of sodium is that we are eating more calories, therefore consuming more sodium.

Tips for Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

• Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts.

• Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.

• Limit salty snacks like chips and pretzels.

• Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes.

• Select unsalted, lower sodium, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.

• Select fat-free or low-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat cheeses and low-fat yogurt.

• Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food. Most spices naturally contain
very small amounts of sodium.

• Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to fish and vegetables.

• Specify how you want your food prepared when dining out. Ask for your dish to be prepared without salt.

• Don't use the salt shaker.

• Use the pepper shaker or mill.

Editor's Note:
This article on the dangers of salt is by Robert Gobble, Area I Health and Fitness director.
It is the second in an occasional series of his health-and-fitness articles appearing in the Area I section of the Morning Calm weekly newspaper, with the aim of helping foster good health
practices within our community.

Page last updated Tue May 28th, 2013 at 00:00