Sodium overload

By Lauren Edwards • Published: September 23rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Salt. It’s been used for centuries, for everything from food preservation to funeral offerings. It adds taste to food, and is necessary for survival. The problem is the amount we consume, at least for those who are salt sensitive and experience higher blood pressure as a result.

Our salt intake has gotten so out of hand that the Food and Drug Administration is considering setting limits on the amount allowed in foods.

Americans consume fifty percent more sodium than the maximum recommended amount… and that’s not just from the salt shaker. More than three-fourths comes from foods that are pre-packed, processed or eaten at restaurants, making sodium content even harder to monitor. Current guidelines state you shouldn’t exceed twenty-three-hundred milligrams… about one teaspoon… of sodium per day. You can stay within this range by making small changes, like avoiding extra salt when cooking and lessening your intake of sodium-dense foods like popcorn, chips, cured meats, canned soups, frozen meals and condiments like ketchup and mayo. Read labels and find things marked “low sodium.” And consume more potassium… found in foods like bananas and sweet potatoes… to help lessen sodium’s effect on your blood pressure. When eating out, ask that food be prepared with less salt, and order sauce on the side.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says cutting salt intake in half could prevent one-hundred-fifty-thousand deaths from cardiovascular disease. And when it comes to your health, isn’t the effort worth its weight in salt?