Sodium, the main ingredient in salt, is known for enhancing the flavor of a wide variety of foods. Although tasty, it is important to make sure that you are not getting too much sodium in your diet. On average, Americans consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. The recommended daily value for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
A high sodium diet can put you at risk of high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension. Sodium raises blood pressure by attracting water into the bloodstream, which increases the volume of the blood. Hypertension raises the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.
Although it is important not to consume too much sodium, it is equally important not to consume too little sodium. Sodium helps your body transmit nerve signals, control muscle movements, and maintain a fluid balance in its cells. However, consuming too little sodium is not typically of concern in the American diet, as humans only need about 500 milligrams (or ¼ tsp) of sodium per day to function.
How To Reduce Your Sodium Intake
- Read the nutrition facts label. Focus on the %DV and make sure you are not exceeding 100% throughout the course of the day.
- Cook your meals. Restaurants tend to pack on unnecessary amounts of sodium to maximize flavor. More than 70% of the sodium in the average American’s comes from restaurant food or pre-packaged/prepared foods, not the salt added at the table.
- Avoid packaged or pre-made foods (such as canned soups, dressings, and sauces) as they usually have a lot of sodium in them to help preserve the food.
- Flavor your food with herbs, spices, and citrus to limit the amount of salt you need to add.
- Choose low-sodium or no-salt-added snack varieties.
- Rinse canned beans and vegetables to get rid of some of the sodium.
- Choose fresh poultry, fish, pork, and lean meats instead of cured, smoked, or other processed meats.