Question: I've been told to cut back on both salt and sodium for health reasons. It's easy enough to stop adding salt to my food, but where does all the sodium come from? Can you help me?
Beverly - About.com User
Answer: Consuming too much sodium may contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and it may lead to fluid retention and bloating. Decreasing the amount of sodium in your diet may help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
One teaspoon of salt has about 2,300 milligrams sodium. Just one-quarter teaspoon has 580 milligrams and a dash of salt has around 150 milligrams.
While salt is a major source of sodium, many processed foods are high in sodium, too. Canned foods, frozen meals, cured meats and many other processed foods contain outrageous amounts of sodium.
So to keep your intake down, you need to do more than simply put away your salt shaker. Locate the Nutrition Facts labels to determine how much sodium is in the foods you buy. Avoid prodcuts that have more than 140 milligrams sodium per serving. You can also rinse your canned vegetables to remove some of the sodium.
How Much Is Too Much?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, these groups of people should be limiting their sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day:
- African Americans
- People with high blood pressure
- People with kidney disease
- Everyone over the age of fifty
The rest of us should stay under 2,300 mg per day.
You'll find sodium in most butter or margarine, milk, bread and other staple foods. Look for these ingredients on the labels of all the processed and packaged foods that you buy:
- Monosodium glutamate
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Disodium phosphate
- Sodium alginate
- Sodium nitrate or nitrite
- Read food labels and choose foods that are low in sodium.
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned.
- Avoid lunch meats and cured meats.
- Stay away from frozen convenience foods like frozen dinners, pizzas, and snack foods.
- Buy unsalted nuts and snacks.
- Eliminate salt from your recipes.
- If you choose canned vegetable or legumes, rinse them thoroughly with water.
- Try salt substitutes made with potassium.
American Heart Association. "Sodium." Accessed January 13, 2011. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4708
Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Pub Co. 2005.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans - 2005." Accessed January 13, 2011. http://www.health.gov/DietaryGuidelines/dga2005/document/default.htm