This is the final week in the Six Weeks to a Healthier Diet e-course. In this lesson, I'll explain why you may want to watch your salt and sodium intake, plus I'll leave you with a few tips to help you live with less sodium.
So what's the deal with salt and sodium?
Salt has been used to flavor and preserve foods for thousands of years and even had a great effect on the economy of empires. Today, you probably have a shaker of salt on your table and maybe some sea salt in the kitchen cabinet.
The problem with salt is that it contains sodium and eating too much sodium may contribute to increased blood pressure, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Decreasing the amount of sodium in your diet may help to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Eating lots of sodium may also lead to fluid retention and bloating.
While salt is a major source of sodium, many processed foods are high in sodium too. Canned foods, frozen meals, cured meats and many snack foods contain outrageous amounts of sodium. So to keep your sodium levels in check, you need to put down your salt shaker and read Nutrition Facts labels when you shop.
The recommendation for a healthy person is to keep sodium intake below 2,400 milligrams (2.4 grams) per day. People with high blood pressure may need to stay below 1,500 milligrams (1.5 grams). 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.
You'll find sodium in most butter or margarine, milk, bread and other staple foods. Heavily processed foods and cured meats often have even higher amounts of sodium. Look for these ingredients on the label:
- Monosodium glutamate
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Disodium phosphate
- Sodium alginate
- Sodium nitrate or nitrite
Frozen dinners usually have more than 500 milligrams sodium, but frozen vegetables have less than 5 milligrams sodium -- if they don't contain any sauce.
Soy sauce is also high in sodium - one tablespoon has over 900 milligrams. Be sure to read the food labels when you shop, or use this comprehensive list of foods and their sodium content.
- One cup of milk - 145 milligrams
- One slice of bread - 300 milligrams
- One tablespoon salted butter or margarine - 80 milligrams
- Breakfast cereals, on average - 200 milligrams
- One egg - 70 milligrams
- One cup canned green beans - 150 milligrams
- Three ounces canned tuna - 300 milligrams
- One cup macaroni and cheese - 560 milligrams
- Three ounces ham -- 1,100 milligrams
- One cup vegetable juice cocktail - 650 milligrams
- One cup canned vegetable soup - 800 milligrams
- One cup canned chicken noodle soup - 1,100 milligrams
- One cup ready to serve spaghetti sauce - 1,200 milligrams
- One cup scalloped potatoes from boxed mix - 835 milligrams
- One frankfurter - 800 milligrams