Salt and How It Affects Your Diet                  

How-salt-affects-your-dietMany of the foods you crave are either sweet or salty. In the distant past, before packaged and processed foods, salt was a valuable commodity as it was important to add salt to foods to replace the salt (sodium) lost through sweating and urination.

Too little sodium in your blood can cause dangerously low blood pressure and interfere with muscle contractions including the muscles of your heart.

Unfortunately, nearly every modern packaged food contains added salt, and we consume many times the amount of salt we need to survive. While your kidneys work hard to eliminate excess salt through your urine, too much salt leads to excess sodium in your bloodstream. It attracts water. The more water in your blood increases the volume of your blood which increases the pressure on your blood vessels leading to high blood pressure.

Salt affects people in different ways, some are more sensitive to salt than others. The elderly, African-Americans and people who have diabetes or decreased kidney function are at higher risk for dangerously high blood pressure. Decreasing your sodium intake or the amount of salt in your diet can help control high blood pressure.

How can you identify high sodium foods?

Start by reading labels. Once you identify serving size, you will easily be able to calculate the sodium content per serving. You may also discover that you often eat more than one serving each time you enjoy your favorite foods or snacks. Next, learn to identify the “hidden” salty ingredients including monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda or powder, bisodium phosphate, sodium alginate and sodium nitrate or nitrite.

Control your sodium intake.

Start by eating more fresh, whole, natural foods and fewer processed foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium.

Throw your salt shaker away. Unless you are cooking your meals from scratch, roasting meat, steaming fish and vegetables, there is little need to sodium to your food.

Avoid high sodium foods. Deli meats, snacks and chips (pretzels and potato chips), fast foods (pizza, burgers and fries), bacon and ham, and most salad dressings and condiments like mustard and ketchup contain more sodium per serving than your entire daily allowance. If you are sensitive to sodium or at risk for high blood pressure, these foods top the list of those to avoid. 

Choose low sodium foods and condiments. There are low sodium options with more available every day. Chips made from vegetables, saltine crackers without the salt, low sodium dressings and dips. Choose spicy over salty, search for all-natural salsas with no added salt. Choose sliced turkey or chicken breast over deli meats.

Choosing natural foods and cutting back on your use of table salt will significantly reduce the salt in your diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables, fresh meat over processed meats and always check the sodium content on food labels. A general rule of thumb is to avoid consuming any food or snack that contains over 100 milligrams of sodium per serving.

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