“Elevated blood pressure is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and sodium is one of the leading causes of elevated blood pressure.” – Lawrence Appel, M.D. and Director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Over the past several decades, there has been a substantial increase in the average American’s daily sodium intake. In reality, the human body needs no more than 500 mg of sodium a day to supply basic bodily function, however the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a daily sodium intake of 1,500 mg. The average American consumes over double that recommended rate at 3,400 mg of sodium a day. Why might this be? First and foremost, over three quarters of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods. Additionally there is no legal limit for sodium levels in food products, which allows manufacturers to include as much salt as they desire. We know consuming processed food is unhealthy for a number of reasons, but with their elevated sodium content, the consumption of these foods on a regular basis not only causes an increase in blood pressure, it conditions the consumer to enjoy foods with a much higher salt content over those with a lower salt content. This makes it much more difficult for a person to reduce their sodium consumption because they will find the less salty foods to have little flavor, making the food less enjoyable. But don’t lose hope just yet! The AHA details various studies validating that the consumption of a reduced sodium diet over time does in fact change a person’s palate to favor low-sodium foods over those high-sodium foods they used to love.
So how do we go about managing and reducing our sodium intake?
- Read your food labels! (Note: “sodium free” or “salt free” means the product have less than 5 mg of sodium per serving, “low sodium” means each serving contains less than 140 mg sodium)
- Know “The Salty Six”; six popular foods that add increased levels of sodium to your diet. Click here to learn them.
- Go out to eat where the food is cooked to order; request preparation without salt!
And remember, knowledge is power!