Salt: Too Much of a Good Thing
Americans eat too much salt. Eating too much salt can cause high blood
pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart disease and other health
problems. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest reducing salt/sodium
in your daily diet.
Table salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Salt and other sodium containing
ingredients are often found in processed or packaged foods. Most of the
sodium in our meals comes from processed foods.
Sodium is the part of salt that increases blood pressure. There is more
sodium in salt than any other food that we eat. We eat salt because it
makes food taste better. It enhances the flavor of almost everything we
eat. Yet eating too much salt is dangerous.
The body needs sodium to hold water in the blood vessels. Sodium also
regulates water balance in all parts of the body. If too much water is
held in the body, the amount of blood increases. If it increases too much,
problems will arise.
The increase in blood makes the heart work harder. The result can be
high blood pressure. Other conditions, such as diabetes, can cause high
blood pressure. The most common cause is eating too much salt/sodium.
When high blood pressure is not controlled, it can lead to a heart attack,
stroke or kidney disease.
How much sodium is too much?
Health experts recommend 1,100 - 3,300 mg of sodium per day for healthy
adults. Most people eat 2,300 to 6,900 mg per day. This is too much sodium.
Some people are salt/sodium sensitive. African Americans, Hispanics, and
obese individuals are especially sensitive to salt.
Controlling the salt in your daily diet can reduce the risk of high blood
pressure. Check your blood pressure often. If it is high, see a doctor.
High blood pressure is a reading of more than 140/85. If your blood pressure
is normal, keep it that way. Exercising, eating less salt and fat, and
keeping your weight down will help your blood pressure stay normal.
Salt/sodium can hide in many foods. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,000
mg of sodium. The following suggestions can help lower salt intakes:
- Eat fewer salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, cheese and pretzels.
- Read the "Nutrition Facts" panel on food labels to see how much sodium
you are eating.
- Read the label. Look for the words, low-salt or reduced-sodium on
products to replace those with high salt.
- Use fresh or frozen vegetables instead of high sodium canned
- Avoid pickled products like sauerkraut, deli meats, sausages and canned
- Use herbs and spices like garlic powder, thyme, oregano, and basil
to flavor food and use less salt. Season meat with lemon juice, bay
leaf, crushed red pepper and rosemary. Season chicken with sage, seasoned
vinegar and ginger.
- Limit the use of high-salt soy sauce, meat tenderizers, seasoned salt,
and Worcestershire. Look for salt-free herb blends for cooking.
Many people have learned to reduce salt in their diets without missing
the salty taste. You can too. Cut back on salt slowly, allowing time for
your tastebuds to adjust. Replace the salty taste with another flavor.
Salt-Free Herb Blend
Use this blend on food you would normally use salt. Fill the salt
shaker and shake until your heart is content. You can find inexpensive,
bulk, dried herbs in the produce section of the grocery store.
5 teaspoons onion powder
2-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2-1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional*)
Combine ingredients and mix well. Spoon into a shaker. Makes 1/3
*Fiery spices do not raise blood pressure. A small amount of ground
red pepper can enhance the flavor of food without making it taste
Prepared by Drusilla
Banks, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension.
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