Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys and it helps to control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function. While it’s important to incorporate sodium into your diet, it’s even more so to be cautious of it.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per day but the ideal limit should really be 1,500 for most adults. More than 75% of sodium that Americans consume comes from processed, pre-packaged, & restaurant foods – not the salt shaker!
Some tips, as recommended by the AHA, for keeping sodium down include:
- Choose packaged & prepared foods as well as condiments carefully
- Pick fresh & frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution
- Choose canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” and frozen vegetables without salty sides
- Use onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegarsin place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods.
- Drain and rinse canned beans(like chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) and vegetables – this can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent
- Cook pasta, rice, and hot cereal without salt.
- Cook by grilling, braising, roasting, searing, and sautéing to bring out the natural flavors in foods
- Incorporate foods with potassium, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.
If you tend to eat at restaurants or order food to-go often, they recommend specifying how you want your food prepared, tasting your food before adding salt, and watching out for key words such as pickled, brined, barbecued, cured, smoked, broth, au jus, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. Foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted may have less sodium.
When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total amount (volume) of blood inside your blood vessels. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure increases. Make an appointment to see your doctor to test your blood pressure and to discuss the right diet for you.
By Gina Stallone