Sodium - Are You Consuming Too Much?

During every initial consultation, I always ask my clients if they are aware of how much sodium they consume on a daily basis. Most of them reply, 'I don't eat any salt,' when in fact they are consuming 2-3 times the recommended amount per day. Just a pinch or dash here and there can add up to unhealthy levels of sodium, especially when most foods already contain dangerous amounts of it. Almost 80% of sodium intake comes from eating processed foods and condiments. So even if you limit the amount of salt you add to your food, the food itself may already contain too much sodium.

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than others. Those in this group hold on to sodium more easily, which may lead to excess fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If you are in that population, extra sodium in your diet increases your chance of developing high blood pressure - a condition that can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

Your body does need sodium to function properly and it does exist naturally in food. So how much sodium should you consume per day? Most healthy adults should consume approximately 2500-3000mg of sodium per day; those with health conditions like heart disease and hypertension should cut back to approximately 1500-2400mg of sodium per day. To put these numbers into perspective: 1 teaspoon of table salt has approximately 2300mg of sodium, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has approximately 1000mg of sodium per serving. Adding these extras while cooking or at the table raises the sodium content of your food tremendously.

There's an added bonus to cutting back on sodium: your body will appear leaner due to less water retention. I have had some clients reduce their weight by 10 pounds as a result of cutting back on processed sodium-rich foods. If you are addicted to table salt on your food, a salt substitute is not the answer! Salt substitute can put just as much strain on vital organs as table salt. Instead of a salt substitute, choose fresh herbs, spices and low-sodium seasonings for extra taste on your foods.

Different Strategies for cutting back on sodium:

• Eat more natural foods and fewer processed foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Also, natural meat is lower in sodium than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham. Buy poultry or meat that hasn't been injected with a sodium containing solution.

• Remove or reduce salt from recipes whenever possible. You can leave out the salt in many recipes, including casseroles, stews and other main dishes. Baked goods are an exception. Leaving out the salt could affect the quality, as well as the taste of the food.

• Limit your use of sodium-laden condiments. Salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium. Look for lower sodium options.