Update on Sodium

by Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB & Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, CDE

Recently the government and the American Heart Association are telling us that we should consume less salt, or sodium.  (Salt = sodium chloride.)

Sodium chloride is important to our normal physiology.   Sodium helps regulate the amount of fluids, including blood,  in the body.  Chloride is a compononent of stomach juices, which aids in the digestion and absorption of many nutrients.

Consuming too much sodium can contribute to a number of health problems: for example:  hypertension., cardiovascular disease, inflammation, stomach cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and kidney problems.—to name a few.

RECOMMENDATIONS for decreasing your sodium:

1. Current recommendation for the general population is: 2300 mg (milligrams) per day.  This is equal to 1 level teaspoon of salt.  This is 1/3 less than the what the average person currently consumes.

2. “According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, an adequate intake of salt for adults ages 19-50 is 3.8 grams salt (or 1500 mg sodium).  For adults ages 51-70, it is 3.3 grams salt (or 1300 mg sodium), and for adults 71 and older, it is 3.0 grams salt or 1200 mg sodium.”

Here are some suggestions for cutting back on salt:

1.  Minimize or avoid processed or prepared foods.  Be sure to read labels. Look for sodium, sea salt, monosodium glutamate, and preservatives that contain sodium.

2. Throw your salt shaker away.

3. Choose more whole, clean foods.

4. Use fresh herbs and spices during cooking, e.g.: ginger, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, dry mustard, marjoram, rosemary, fresh onions and fresh garlic.

5. Add freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice to foods.

6. For soups—choose low sodium bouillon cubes.

7. When using salt substitutes, please be cautious because they are high in potassium. People with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease cannot handle high levels of potassium. 

8.  Be aware that your tap water and/or well water contains certain levels of sodium.  Most towns have standards of acceptable levels of sodium.  If you are concerned about how much sodium is in your town’s water, check with your local health deparment.

Let us know how you plan to reduce your sodium intake!

Deb and Wendy, The Wellness Shifter Ladies!!!

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3 Responses to Update on Sodium

  1. Lucy Ellis says:

    Hi-I find your article informative and useful but do have a question. I am about 15 pounds overweight and have a constant battle with eating the “right” foods. My blood pressure runs consistently low (90/60). Is extra salt so bad with such low blood pressure? Or is this just wishful thinking? 🙂

    • Hi Lucy:
      That’s great you don’t have high blood pressure! In terms of blood pressure, a little extra salt and sodium may not effect you significantly. However, high sodium intake is associated with other forms of cardiovascular disease, lymphedema, fluid retention and inflammation. High sodium intake can also effect weight management.

      Deb and Wendy

  2. Susan B. says:

    Hi, I have low blood pressure and think that it correlates to my limited salt intake. I rarely cook or add salt to my food. The problem is when I go on vacation. Even though I’m active and drink lots of water, I tend to “blow-up” because of all the eating out. Do you have suggestions on how to eat or choose healthier meals in restaurants? Thanks!

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