AUBURN, Ala.— Choosing to eat smart with a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and lose weight. One of the most overlooked ways to do this is to reduce your sodium intake.
Sheree Taylor, an Alabama Extension regional agent in Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, said the average American adult consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, which exceeds the recommendations to have no more than 2,300 mgs. Additionally, those who have hypertension and diabetes are recommended to consume no more than 1,500 mgs per day.
What’s so Bad About it?
Consuming excessive amounts of sodium can cause your body to hold onto excess water. Taylor said it can lead to increased blood pressure. The American Heart Association says that excess levels of sodium can put people at increased risk for heart failure, stroke, stomach cancer, osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Step Away From the Processed Food Aisle
One of the main sources of excess sodium is processed food which use it to enhance flavor. “Most of the foods high in sodium are processed foods, fast foods and ready to eat foods. They usually come in cans, boxes, packages and jars,” said Taylor. She recommends making a shift to preparing meals at home using more whole foods, such as fresh or frozen vegetables, and no salt added canned goods if you do use canned vegetables.” She said that when you prepare food at home, you have the ability to control the amount of sodium you take in, unlike when you eat out.
A common misconception is that diet focused frozen meals are a healthy alternative.
“On the food label, you will find these provide more than the salt recommendation per serving. This is usually due to reducing the amount of fat in foods. Fat provides flavor in our foods, so when you remove the fat, you have to get it from another source, such as salt or sugar.” As a result of reducing the fat content, companies may raise the sodium levels, thus making your healthy option merely a less fatty option, Taylor added.
What Can You Do?
The most efficient ways to reduce sodium intake are to avoid eating processed foods, to reduce how often you eat out and to cook at home using whole foods.
Taylor suggests for those people wanting to reduce their sodium intake, “Learn to read food labels. To be low in sodium, a food should be 140 mgs or 5 percent or less per serving. Learn to cook more meals, increase fruit and vegetable intake, do not eat after 7:00 p.m., and consume more whole foods and less processed quick foods.”
Featured image by Novelo/shutterstock.com
Frozen dinner image by BW Folsom/shutterstock.com