A sprinkle here and a dash there… What harm can a little salt do?
Plenty. Most people consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). This can lead to multiple cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and damage to the heart, kidneys and blood vessels.
Only about 10 percent of our sodium intake comes from home cooking. The real culprit is processed foods and eating in restaurants, where it’s nearly impossible to control your food’s sodium content. Especially when eating out, try to avoid sodium-packed foods like those the Heart Association coins coined the “salty six”:
- Breads and rolls – While each serving may not contain much salt, when eaten over the course of a day, the sodium can add up. Try reducing your overall consumption.
- Cold cuts and cured meats – Just six thin slices of deli mean can contain half of your recommended daily allowance of sodium. Opt for low-sodium options whenever possible.
- Pizza with toppings – Reduce or skip the salt-infused ingredients like pepperoni and load your slice with veggies.
- Poultry – Just because it’s chicken doesn’t mean it’s healthy, especially when it’s fried. Try grilling or baking chicken at home.
- Soup – One cup of canned soup can contain more than half of your recommended daily salt intake. Read the labels carefully because there are huge differences between many brands.
- Sandwiches – The fast food variety is especially loaded with salt, sometimes more than 100 percent of your daily allotment. When there’s no other option, try a half sandwich and a salad.
Unless you’re running a marathon in the middle of summer, about one half teaspoon of salt is all most people need a day, regardless of age. But it’s difficult to judge the amount of salt you’re getting, even from a salt shaker, so here are some guidelines in milligrams:
- 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
- 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
- 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
- 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
Eliminating all salt from your diet is virtually impossible and not recommended since salt is important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, as well as nerve and muscle function. However, you can greatly reduce your intake by buying and preparing fresh, healthy foods yourself so you can remain in control.