Diet and Exercise > Sodium. Friend or Foe?
Everyone needs some sodium, but too much may aggravate high blood pressure, congestive heart failure or other medical conditions. Most Americans consume much more sodium than they need. There is enough sodium found naturally in unsalted food to meet daily needs. The American Heart Association suggests reducing sodium to 3000 milligrams or less per day.
Why Limit Sodium?
With some medical conditions, the body retains too much sodium causing fluid retention. Some individuals are more sensitive to the effects of sodium. Predicting those who may be 'salt sensitive' is difficult.
For certain individuals, too much sodium in the diet aggravates high blood pressure. A high sodium diet does not cause high blood pressure. Cutting back on salt may not prevent high blood pressure, it may help lower blood pressure for 'salt sensitive' people.
Some people have heart or kidney conditions that warrant the reduction of sodium in their diet. Their bodies have difficulty processing sodium and the resulting fluid retention can be life-threatening.
Sodium can cause water retention in some individuals resulting in swelling.
Most food packages list the amount of sodium per serving size in the nutrition information section of the label. Remember to check serving sizes. They sometimes differ from the amount you eat. If a food product has been made lower in sodium, you may see sodium-specific labeling on the front of the label. These labeling terms mean:
- Sodium Free - contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
- Very Low Sodium - contains no more than 35 mg of sodium per serving
- Low Sodium - contains no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving
- Reduced Sodium - contains at least 25% less sodium than the product it is replacing
- Light in Sodium - contains 50% less sodium per service of original product
Want To Eat Less Sodium? Try these helpful hints:
- Use less salt in cooking.
- Do not add salt to food at the table.
- Try using lemon juice, fresh garlic or garlic powder or onion in place of salt.
- Keep salt out of easy reach.
- In restaurants, ask that your selection not be salted.
Check labels on food containers for clues about sodium in the list of ingredients. Some labels will state the amount of sodium in a serving. It is very important to read labels carefully if you are on a low-sodium diet prescribed by a doctor.
Look for new recipes that are low in sodium.