You probably hear it everywhere – from your doctor, on the news and in the latest health studies – Americans consume too much salt. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping nine out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium on a daily basis. While salt can add plenty of flavor to our food, it can also have negative health effects, such as increased blood pressure and fluid retention. If these symptoms continue over time, they can lead to congestive heart failure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
So how much sodium is too much? The U.S. Dietary Guidelines advise that people under that age of 51 consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. The American Heart Association recommends that adults who are over the age of 51, are African-American, or who have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or high blood pressure consume less than 1,500 milligrams per day.
Last week, we talked about some simple tactics you can use to reduce your sugar intake. Cutting down on your salt intake is just as important in preventing serious chronic illnesses, so read on for our simple tips to improve your health:
- First and foremost, know that salt is an acquired taste. You can wean yourself off of salt, so gradually reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. Soon, your taste buds won’t miss the excess salt.
- Steer clear of processed foods and fast food. As we reported earlier this week, U.S. fast food restaurants contain more sodium in their dishes than chains in other countries. By simply cutting back on how often you order your favorite combo meal, you can reduce your salt intake. The same goes for processed foods you purchase at the grocery store such as potato chips, pizza, pasta, deli meats, cheese and soup.
- Prepare your own meals from scratch. By preparing your own meals with whole ingredients (such as lean meats, fruits and vegetables), you instantly give yourself more control over how much salt is added to your food. Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor and variety to your dishes without excess sodium.
- If you do purchase prepared food, try to find varieties that are labeled “low sodium.”
- Limit the use of salty condiments. Salad dressings, ketchup, dips, mustard, relish and soy sauce all contain significant amounts of sodium, so use them in moderation.
By working these habits into your daily life, you will be able to greatly reduce your sodium intake and prevent the negative health effects brought on by high-salt diets.