Sodium dangers affect the health of millions of people every day. Research consistently shows that an overconsumption of sodium is strongly linked to a variety of potentially lethal ailments. According to the American Medical Association, 150,000 lives could be saved annually if people simply cut their sodium intake in half.
So why do so many people continue to expose themselves to these sodium dangers? In a word – taste. Simply put, Americans love their salt, and the food industry is more than willing to oblige our craving for this tasty mineral.
Sodium is found in almost everything we eat. Potato chips, pretzels, nuts, processed meats, canned soups, frozen dinners, and sauces are some of the foods we expect to be laden with sodium. However, it’s also in foods and drinks in which we’re less aware, including cereals, sodas, cheeses and cakes. With so much sodium already in the foods we eat, it’s hard to imagine a great many of us make matters worse by adding even more salt to these foods.
Sodium dangers can be avoided by limiting the amount of salt in our diets. Maintaining a low sodium diet is a vital necessity to our overall health. A teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium The amount of sodium recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is 1,500 milligrams a day. Any excess amount can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients and disruption normal functions of your body. Unfortunately, a majority of Americans consume much more that amount, averaging between 3,000 to 5,000 milligrams a day.
Excessive sodium intake by U.S. citizens lead to significant financial consequences. It’s estimated that the effects of too much salt cost the U.S. between $10 billion and $24 billion a year in healthcare costs. For those who consume twice the recommended average of sodium, serious medical problems can arise.
The following health ailments are those most prevalent among those with excessive sodium consumption.
Heart failure. Research indicates that excessive sodium in one’s diet is a direct cause of left ventricular hypertrophy, which can lead to heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.
High blood pressure. The primary cause of hypertension/high blood pressure is excessive sodium intake. Studies find that reducing sodium intake through diet can lower one’s blood pressure by as much as twenty five percent.
Kidney stones. Extra sodium not used by the body will concentrate in the urine, increasing the filtration load of the kidneys. As a result, those who consume too much salt have a greater risk of developing kidney stones. Combined with high blood pressure, this can add further stress to the kidneys, and increase the potential for kidney diseases.
Osteoporosis. Sodium inhibits the body’s ability to absorb and utilize calcium. Too much sodium can lead to the loss of bone density, increasing the likelihood of osteoporosis.
Ulcers. Sodium regulates the acid-base balance of blood and body fluids. By overindulging in salty foods, the chances of developing heartburn and esophageal acid reflux are elevated. Studies suggest that long-term excessive salt intake can increase the risks for gastric ulcers.
10 Tips to reduce sodium in your diet
- Read labels when food shopping – and choose accordingly.
- Avoid adding salt when cooking, and at the dining table.
- Reduce consumption of salty snacks.
- Avoid processed and fast food.
- Buy fresh cold meats instead of processed varieties.-
- Look for lower-sodium breakfast cereals.
- Rinse canned foods packed in water before eating.
- Keep the condiments like mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, relish and salad dressing to a minimum, as most have high sodium levels
- Ditch those packet-soups and most microwavable meals
- Choose unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and brown rice.
Specific high-sodium foods to steer clear of include the following:
- Hot dogs, luncheon meats (bologna, ham, salami)
- Bacon and sausage
- Tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel
- Salty chips, crackers, popcorn, nuts, and pretzels
- Instant noodles
- Scalloped potatoes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Pot pies
- Herring, pickles, relish, olives, and sauerkraut
- Soy sauce, steak sauce, and barbecue sauce
- Garlic salt, onion salt, bouillon cubes, meat tenderizer, and mono-sodium glutamate (MSG)
Let’s face it, most people would be hard pressed to eliminate all these foods from their diet. However, the need to minimize them is essential to greater health. While it’s true that we do need some sodium in our diet to help maintain the balance of body fluids, the amounts necessary are minimal, and should consistently be no more than 1500 milligrams a day.
written by Ian Cohen.
© 2011 H.I.C. Digestive Health
Mayo Clinic: How to tame your salt habit
Medline Plus: Sodium in diet
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Most Americans should consume less sodium.
Health Canada: It’s Your Health
University of Maryland Medical Center: Salt the forgotten Killer