Watch Your Sodium Intake

salt-shaker1You’ve been trying to eat less sodium—just a pinch of table salt on your baked potato and a dash on your scrambled eggs. But a pinch here and a dash there can quickly add up to unhealthy levels of sodium. Many processed and prepared foods already contain lots of sodium, and it’s these foods that contribute the most sodium to your diet.

If you’re like many people, you’re getting far more sodium than the Dietary Guidelines recommendation of less than 2,400 mg per day. According to webmd.com, we need about 250 mg of sodium each day, which is easily supplied by natural, unprocessed foods; however, the average American consumes approximately 4000 to 6000 mg per day.

What is the difference between salt and sodium?
People often use the term ‘salt’ interchangeably with ‘sodium,’ which is a mineral. This is primarily due to salt’s chemical composition, which is sodium chloride (table salt). Sodium can also be found in sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Many unprocessed foods contain sodium, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and cheese.

Why is sodium bad for you?
High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and can cause your body to retain extra water. This can make certain conditions, such as heart failure or kidney disease, worse. For example, too much sodium makes it harder for your already weakened heart to pump and can lead to sudden heart failure. Fluid may build up in your lungs-making it harder for you to breathe. Limiting sodium in your diet will make you feel better.

How can you avoid sodium when eating out?
For many people, eating out is something they do to relax and socialize. You don’t have to give this up when you are on a low-sodium diet, but it is important to be more careful about what you order in a restaurant. You can still enjoy eating out while limiting the sodium in your diet with some planning.

Try to choose restaurants where the food is made to order, instead of choosing fast-food or buffet-style restaurants. Before you order, ask how the food is prepared and if the restaurant offers low-sodium menu items. Often you can ask that your meal be prepared with no added sodium. You may be able to substitute low-salt or fresh menu items for those with higher sodium content.

Jennifer Adams is a nationally certified personal trainer and exercise instructor who has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. She is the owner of Sand N Sea Fitness in Santa Cruz and is a practicing attorney. Contact her at [email protected]


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