Sodium is vital to bodily functions. It is needed in fluid balance and to generate tiny electrical currents that control muscles, nerves and heart rhythms; but too much salt can also be dangerous. Excessive sodium intake has been shown to increase both blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke. So how much is too much?
The FDA recommends a daily allowance of sodium at 2400 milligrams(mg) which is just a bit more than a teaspoon. On average, most Americans consume between 3100 and 4700 mg per day!! The majority of salt in the American diet comes from processed foods or eating out. Some examples:
McDonald’s small hamburger 530mg
Quarter pounder with cheese 1190mg
Big Mac 1040mg
Large Fries 350mg
Pizza Hut Personal
6 inch pepperoni pizza 1760mg
Subway Cold cut 6 inch sub 1590mg
One ounce bag potato chips 180mg
One ounce bag pretzels 580mg
Vegetables high in sodium include:
celery per half cup raw 50mg
spinach per half cup cooked 65mg
Don’t be fooled into thinking only casual fast food restaurants put a lot of salt in food. Many upscale restaurants also put a lot of salt in their food. This information is easily available on the internet and I urge you to Google search the entrees at some of your favorite chain restaurants. You will be quite surprised.
When dining out request less salt in your entrees. When possible, go for herbs and spices rather than the salt shaker. Check labels for sodium content on processed foods.
One thing worth remembering is that salt enhances the taste of food. It is ok to cook with some salt. You can make a pot of soup for 6-8 people and probably put no more than a teaspoon of salt in to enhance the taste adequately. Salt is a very useful ingredient in moderation and completely salt free food is usually very bland. Conversely, your body can adjust to lower quantities of sodium intake. Once you’ve reduced your intake to a safe level, you’ll find many processed foods and restaurant meals to be too salty.