Just like many things in life, things go “in” style, and things go “out.” Nutrition is no different. What’s currently “in” for nutrition policy makers is helping our nation cut down on sodium intake. Despite our best intentions, we still consume way too much sodium in this nation, which is linked to increased blood pressure, in turn putting us at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Here’s the scoop. On average, we take in 3400 mg of sodium a day, equating to nearly 1 ½ teaspoons of salt. And it’s not that we sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of salt on our food every day, it’s in our food. Over 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant food. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends less than 2300 mg for adults with even less for high risk groups – African Americans, hypertensive individuals and adults over 51 years of age. Those folks need to take sodium down to 1500 mg/day.
That little innocent taco you had for lunch, 800 mg of sodium; your cold cereal, toast and milk at breakfast, easily 400 mg of sodium; the lasagna from last night, along with salad and garlic bread probably tipped in at 1500 mg. We know the usual culprits – pickles, canned vegetables and soups, fast food. But what about the “sneaky” food? Things that don’t taste salty can still have plenty of sodium and add up ever so subtly. 1 cup of yogurt = 150 mg; 2 teaspoons of peanut butter = 150 mg; a slice of bread = 150 mg.
Thank goodness the U.S. government is asking for new standards for more acceptable levels of sodium in processed and restaurant food, but what can we do personally to cut our sodium?
- Eat at home more often, preparing freshly cooked foods and seasoning with herbs and spice blends.
- Educate yourself about the sodium in the foods you buy by looking at the nutrition facts label.
- Watch condiments, marinades, salad dressings, processed meats and meats that may be “injected” with a sodium solution.
- Check out restaurant websites for their sodium information on menu choices.