Salt is widely relied on to give foods some added flavor. Many people may feel that unsalted foods are not as tasty as their salty counterparts, but it's important that people of all ages understand the threat that excessive sodium consumption poses.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, kidney problems may result from excessive sodium consumption. In addition, the American Heart Association notes that excess sodium and salt in the body puts a person at risk for a host of ailments, including stroke, heart failure, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis.
Cutting back on sodium should be a goal for anyone who hasn't already done so. But the HSPH notes that people over age 50, people who have high or slightly elevated blood pressure, diabetics, and African Americans are at high risk of developing the health problems related to excessive sodium consumption. Because sodium is so prevalent, some people may think that cutting back on its consumption must be nearly impossible. However, there are some simple ways to cut back on sodium.
- Ask for low-sodium recommendations when dining out. The AHA notes that the average person consumes 25 percent of his or her overall sodium at restaurants. Some places now require restaurants to list total sodium content alongside offerings on their menus, and diners living in such areas should choose only those meals that are low in sodium. Diners who live in areas where sodium levels are not listed on the menu can ask for low-sodium recommendations or if existing menu items can be prepared without sodium or with lower amounts of sodium.
- Read labels. According to the AHA, 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed foods. Diners who have resolved to push away the salt shaker at the dinner table might still be exceeding their daily recommended sodium limits if they are eating prepackaged foods with high sodium levels. Food manufacturers use salt to give prepackaged foods longer shelf lives, so concerned diners should read labels before taking items home from the grocery store. The AHA recommends that adults consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, and shoppers should keep that in mind when reading labels and planning meals.
- Opt for low-sodium condiments. Salt is not the only condiment on restaurant or kitchen tables that can add flavor to a meal, but it's one of the few that can have a devastating effect on long-term health. Forgo table salt when sitting down at the dinner table and opt for low-sodium condiments instead. Balsamic vinegar, horseradish and the juice of a lemon each pack a flavorful, low-sodium punch.
- Read vegetable packages as well. Shoppers who do not buy fresh vegetables from the produce aisle or farmer's market should read the packaging on canned or frozen vegetables to ensure their veggies are not being doused in salt. Some manufacturers may use salt to preserve canned and frozen veggies. Diners who do not have access to fresh vegetables or the time to buy fresh veggies each week should compare packaging on canned and frozen vegetables and choose the product with the lowest amount of sodium.
Sodium can make meals more flavorful, but cutting back on sodium intake can improve long-term health.