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Understanding Sodium

Here is another area where excess is the enemy. Our bodies need sodium. It is a major component of the internal electrical battery that operates us. But, we only need 1 tsp. a day or 2,400 milligrams. Americans get most of their sodium in the form of salt. When we consume too much salt it forces the body to retain excess fluid; that in turn raises our blood pressure and makes it more difficult for the heart to do its job properly. We will all benefit from lowering our sodium intake even if we have not yet been diagnosed as hypertensive. But, remember some salt is necessary. It is the primary source of Iodine in the American diet and without Iodine the thyroid gland doesn’t work properly.

Is it enough that I don’t salt my food?

Sodium is hidden in all sorts of food. You need to be aware of both natural and added sodium content. Table salt is sodium chloride. It’s 40 percent sodium by weight. When you buy prepared and packaged foods, read the labels. Watch for the words “soda” this refers to sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. You might also see the chemical symbol NA which stands for soda.

Some drugs have high amounts of sodium. Carefully read the labels on all over-the-counter drugs. Look at the ingredient list and warning statement to see if the product has sodium. Again, the market place is catching up with science and many companies are now offering a low-sodium alternative to their over-the-counter medications. If you are in doubt about a drug ask your doctor or the pharmacist if the drug is ok for YOU.

How can I reduce the sodium in my diet?

  • Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts.
  • Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.
  • Limit the amount of salty snacks you eat, like chips and pretzels.
  • Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes.
  • Select unsalted, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
  • Select fat-free or low-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat chesses, as well as low-fat yogurt.
  • When dining ask, specify that you want your dishes prepared without added salt.
  • Use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of food.
  • Keep track of your daily intake by reading labels. Remember soda pop has much added sodium, but there are alternatives with no sodium. Diet Rite is such a brand. Remember your budget for one day is 2,400 milligrams. Spend it wisely.
  • Never, never salt food before you taste it.