Sodium has gained a lot of attention in the last few years, but what is all the fuss about? Well, studies have shown that Americans are eating well above the amount of sodium that is recommended daily for our bodies (no more than 2,500mg/day, 1,500 for some individuals). This problem is associated with the way we prepare foods, preserve foods, and the frequency in which we eat meals out of the home. A recent study published in the March A.N.D journal explains that restaurants claim to be reducing sodium and other components in their food, but that the study revealed otherwise. Results found that there were no significant changes over a 1-year-period of time for chain restaurants in the United States. The Center for Disease Control, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all explain that too much sodium in the diet leads to a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease. How on earth do we consume so much? Our overwhelming consumption of pre-packaged, canned, preserved, and processed foods is largely at blame. As our own food activist, we must rely on our own nutrition knowledge to guide us to healthy eating and decrease our sodium consumption. Below I have listed some tips to cut down the amount of sodium in your diet:
Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. Typically, fresh foods have a lower amount of sodium due to their lack of preservatives. Preservatives found in processed and pre-packaged foods contain high amounts of sodium to prevent microbial growth and add flavor. Processed and packaged foods include hot dogs, sausage, bacon, deli meat, pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, and fast foods.
Be aware of foods that contain natural sources of sodium. Foods that contain natural sources of sodium include some bread, dairy, meat, and fish. When bought fresh, these foods actually contain small amounts of sodium. But, it is important to know these foods so you can make sure to plan your meals accordingly and create a balanced amount through out the day (compared to all at one meal).
Reduce sodium in the kitchen and at the table. When cooking, you will find many recipes ask to add salt or seasoning. Try this: add only half of what the recipe calls for (if you are in a daring mood, try adding no salt). You can make up for this flavor by adding herbs and spices such as oregano, cayenne pepper, cilantro, parsley, citrus from fruit, and more. Also, always make sure to rinse your canned foods used in recipes in order to decrease sodium content about 30%. When the food hits the table, you may have a habit of adding table salt to your foods. Challenge yourself by forgoing the additional table salt (1 teaspoon= 2,326mg sodium!!!) and use the alternative flavors listed above. If you must add salt, try to keep it to a “dash" (1/16 teaspoon).