Sodium: Friend or Foe

One thing that we commonly hear when it comes to nutrition is sodium levels, yet this is something that isn’t usually commonly known. It should come as no surprise that as Americans we tend to consume around 3,400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount of sodium is less than 2,300 mg a day. While your body does need sodium to work properly, consuming too much of it can be a major health risk and can lead to an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

The best way to start limiting our sodium intake is to start reading food labels when purchasing foods, as well as knowing what types of food sodium is most prevalent in. Over 70% of the dietary sodium that we consume comes from eating packaged and prepared foods, not from the added table salt when cooking or eating. The easiest way to figure out how much sodium we are eating is to look at the food label. Looking at the daily value and making sure that it is under 2,300 mg is the first step. After finding that number, use that information to determine whether that serving is either high or low in sodium. Just to give you a general idea, 5% of the daily value or less per serving of sodium is considered low, while anything 20% and over of the daily value of sodium per serving is considered high. The other thing that we want to look at when we are reading the label in regards to how much sodium it contains is the amount of servings. Looking at how many servings it contains, as well as the serving size will help you know exactly how much sodium you will be consuming with how much you are planning to eat.

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the prepackaged and prepared foods that we eat consume high amounts of sodium. So that’s where knowing exactly what foods usually contain high amounts of sodium can be beneficial. About 40% of the sodium consumed by Americans are found in the following foods: deli meats, pizza, burritos and tacos, soups, chips, savory snacks (chips, crackers, popcorn, etc.), poultry, pasta dishes, burger, and egg dishes and omelets. I know I offended just about everyone with that list right there, which is one of the reasons that we see such high amounts of sodium consumed on a daily basis. A lot of the foods we like to consume frequently contain high amounts of sodium. So next time you decide you want one of the items on that list, check the label first and I think you’ll be surprised at just how much sodium it contains.

Now that we see just how easy it can be to consume too much sodium, I’ll go over some tips on ways in which we can reduce our sodium intake.

  • Read the Nutrition Label

As I mentioned at the beginning, reading the food label can help give you a lot of insight on just what is contained in the food you are about to eat. Choose foods that contain less than 100% of the daily value, and ideally one that contain less than 5% of the daily value.

  • Prepare Your Food When You Can

When you prepare your own food, you know exactly what is being put into that food with the preparation. This helps you avoid not knowing what was adding prior to you consuming it. Also, try and limit packaged sauces, mixes, and “instant products”.

  • Add Flavor Without Adding Sodium

One of the easiest ways to do this is to limit the amount of table salt that we put onto the food we eat. Try looking for no salt seasonings (I personally love using Mrs.Dash seasonings) and adding more herbs and spices to add more flavor to your food.

  • Buy Fresh

Buying fresh will help you stay away from the adding sodium that is usually found in prepackaged foods. When shopping try and buy fresh meats as opposed to processed ones. Also, buying fresh fruits and vegetables as well instead of frozen ones.

  • Careful With Your Veggies

This one kind of piggybacks off of the last one, but try and avoid buying vegetables that have been frozen. The reason for this is because in frozen veggies we tend to see that extra sodium/salt has been added.

  • Rinse Foods that Contain Sodium

Rinsing foods that contain sodium can help get rid of some of the sodium content. Foods such as beans, tuna, and vegetables are all a good example of foods that you can do this with.

  • Limit Sodium in Your Snacks

Try and choose snacks that contain a lower sodium content. Snacks are a type of food that we can see a high amount of sodium snuck in. When choosing snacks try to choose low-sodium or no-salt options for nuts, seeds, chips, and pretzels.

  • Consider Your Condiments

Condiments are always sneaky with what they contain within them. Just like most of them contain a high amount of unnecessary calories, the story is no different when it comes to sodium. To help to try and reduce this problem look for condiments that are light or reduced in sodium, or use oils or vinegar for dressings.

  • Reduce Your Portion Size

Just like less food means less calories, the story is no different when it comes to sodium. Preparing food at home and consuming smaller portions is the easiest way to do this. Another easy fix for this is splitting food with someone when going out to eat.

  • Make Lower Sodium Choices When Eating Out

This is something that I am seeing become more prevalent in prepackaged foods, but this is also something that we can do with foods that are prepared. If someone else is preparing the food, you can ask for it to be prepared with no salt and you can ask for any additional sauces to be served on the side. Having them served on the side will then allow you to limit the amount of dressing you consume.

As we can see from above, sodium is something that is present in a lot of what we eat on a daily basis. Yet, it’s something that a lot of us tend to just ignore. We tend to look at the calories it contains, maybe taking a look at the carb, fat, and protein content, and then we move on with our lives. However, we might want to start taking a look at the sodium content when we look at those food labels as well. By changing the amount of sodium we consume to a healthy amount, we will also help our bodies keep a healthy level of fluid within the body. It will prevent our bodies from holding on to that extra water, which most of us notice when we look or feel bloated.

Wanting to know more before getting started? Set up a free 20 minute intro phone call with one of our coaches!

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