What is sodium? Sodium is an element needed in our bodies. It is necessary for maintenance of fluid balance and muscle and nerve function. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and can make you feel bloated or in some cases fluid buildup.
How much sodium do you need? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 mg per day. If you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes this recommendations falls to 1,500 mg per day. To put it into perspective table salt is 40% sodium so 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium – your limit!
There are four majors categories of foods that are known for being high in sodium. Cut back on these and you’re well on your way to limiting sodium.
One: chips, pretzels, and salty snack foods. Limit these and try snacking on unsalted nuts or crunch chickpeas instead. Two: deli meats, processed meats, and breakfast meats. The occasional bacon with breakfast won’t hurt, but in general avoid these meats. Low sodium deli meats are available so ask for it at your local grocer. Try grilled chicken for lunch and eggs in the morning instead for protein. Three: canned soups and frozen dinners. Although canned soup may say “low sodium” be sure to read the label and make homemade soup if possible! You can control how much salt you add. Four: condiments (ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, hot sauce) and cheese. Try to use condiments as little as possible. While it’s tempting to use them in excess be aware that you could be adding up to 200 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon!
How do you cut back on sodium? My number one tip is to eat fresh foods! Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are naturally low in sodium. When cooking fresh foods try to not add salt. There are plenty of herbs and spices that are virtually sodium free and will add plenty of flavor. Always remember to check the nutrition facts label! Sodium can be found under cholesterol.