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July 2020

How Much Salt is Too Much?

Everyone needs salt to maintain fluid balance as well as muscle and nerve function. Too much salt has become a major health concern in the US. Health risks linked to high salt consumption include high blood pressure, stroke, heart and kidney disease along with possible liver damage, osteoporosis and cognitive decline. So, how much is too much when it comes to salt?

How Much Salt?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend seniors (51+) consume no more than 1500 mg. of sodium daily. The American Heart Association advises no more than 2300 mg. each day, moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1500 mg. for most adults.

On average, Americans eat more than 3400 mg. of sodium (salt) daily. This is more than double the current dietary guidelines. The body needs only a small amount (500 mg.) to function, but very few people come close to that level.

Keeping sodium in check is part of an overall healthy eating pattern. If you have a medical condition or special dietary needs or restrictions, follow the advice of your health care provider.

Your health will benefit from even a modest reduction in salt intake. Just 1 teaspoon of salt has 2325 mg of sodium!

Where is the Sodium Coming From?
Salt occurs naturally in food, although most salt in food is added. It can be added during processing, when cooking, or at the table. It is estimated that over 70% of dietary sodium comes from processed foods and restaurant meals, not from the saltshaker you may use at the table or during home cooking.

Efforts initiated by the Institute of Medicine are being made by the FDA to regulate the amount of salt added to foods. However, there is still a long way to go. To help identify where sodium is coming from, read the Nutrition Facts label on products. Be sure to check the serving size since the information is based on that portion.

Cut Back on Sodium
Salt is an acquired taste that can be modified. Decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. Here are some sodium reducing tips, that your heart will certainly like!

  • Focus on fresh foods that are not processed. Include fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, yogurt and whole grains such as brown rice and oats. These foods are naturally low in sodium.
  • Limit processed & prepared foods, as they are higher in sodium. This includes bacon, hot dogs, deli or lunch meats, canned chili, soups, “instant” potatoes, ramen noodles and cereals. Check the nutrition label to compare sodium content.
  • Limit use of soy sauce, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, garlic salt and even lemon pepper. Use fresh herbs to spice up your meals!

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