The current US recommendations call for a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium a day, which is about 1 teaspoon. However, people with high blood pressure or people with borderline blood pressure, (this constitutes about 70% of American adults!) should only be consuming no more than 2/3 a teaspoon or 1500 mg a day. People with diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and other conditions should cut their consumption of salt way back also.
Where does most of our salt content come from? It comes from processed, prepared foods like breads and crackers, canned and frozen foods, read-to-eat cereals, cheese and restaurant foods. Salt is a cheap additive that enhances flavor and makes bland foods taste better. It makes meat retain water which, of course, adds weight for which we are paying top dollar for. Salt also makes us thirsty...one more way for us to put money in the the food industry's pocket for soft drinks.
In most people, the kidneys have trouble keeping up with the excess sodium in the bloodstream. As it begins to accumulate, the body responds by holding onto water to dilute the sodium. This increases both the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream. That means more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels. Over time, the extra work and pressure can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. It can also lead to heart failure.
The top 10 food sources of sodium in the American diet, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys are:
- Meat pizza
- White bread
- Hot dogs
- Spaghetti with meat sauce
- Cooked rice
- White rolls
- Four tortillas
Unfortunately, most Americans eat a lot of processed, prepared and convenience foods that are high in sodium as well as sugar and fat. A lot of this sodium is "hidden" since many of these foods don't taste salty....for instance, bread. Another example is Kellogg's Raisin Bran...it has 354 mg of sodium per serving, (most people eat more than one servint), which is about 24% of the day's healthy allotment.
Restaurant foods are even worse..partly because of their larger portion sizes, but restaurant foods are loaded with salt. It's very easy to consume far more than a day's worth of salt in a single restaurant meal. Here are some examples:
Buffalo chicken salad: 4350 mg sodium
Chicken fajitas: 4650 mg sodium
Vegetarian fried rice: 2210 mg sodium
Pasta in carbonara sauce: 3000 mg sodium
Pizza with sausage: 4910 mg sodium
Club sandwich: 2100 mg sodium
Sliders: 4070 mg sodium
And remember the recommendation for less than 1500 mg a day? People believe because they are not picking up the salt shaker and adding it to their food, they are not eating a lot of salt. When you eat restaurant food you can be SURE you are getting a BIG DOSE of salty foods.
What's the solution? Do most of your cooking at home, it's a MUCH HEALTHIER choice. As I have said before, try and make big batches of beans, rice, quinoa, etc., over the weekend, get vegetables chopped and ready to go so that when you come home from work, most of the food prep is done and you can get dinner on the table relatively quickly. You don't have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, especially this time of year. It just takes a little planning.
I know making most of your meals at home isn't always convenient, but, how convenient is a diagnosis of heart disease or cancer?