February is American Heart Month! Last year, we covered Heart Health 101, but this year we’re diving into your salt intake. You have likely heard that many Americans should keep an eye on their salt intake, but do you know why? We’re breaking down why it’s important to monitor sodium intake, which foods are highest in salt, and tips and tricks to keeping that salt intake down.
Why Should You Limit Sodium?
Sodium is a mineral that is essential to your health. Sodium helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contraction, and nervous system function. When we have extra sodium in our body, it pulls water into your bloodstream, increasing the blood volume in the vessel. With more volume in the vessels, it creates more pressure, which increases blood pressure. When blood pressure is too high, it puts more stress and pressure on your heart increasing risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
How Much Sodium Do I Need?
Most Americans are consuming too much sodium in the standard American diet. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1500-2300mg of sodium per day. The average American consumes 3400mg per day.
Which Foods Are High In Sodium?
Most sodium in our diet is hidden in foods that we often don’t even know have extra sodium in them. Although, adding table salt to your dish can contribute to increased sodium intake, prepackaged and processed foods tend to be the main culprit of extra sodium in the diet. Since sodium is often hidden in foods, it is very important to read food labels.
A food low in sodium will be 5% DV or less and a food high in sodium will be 20% DV or more. Keep in mind that these rules apply per serving. So if we eat 2 cups of canned soup that has 20% DV sodium per serving and the serving size is 1 cup of soup, then we are eating almost 40% DV in sodium. This would send us way over our recommended amount of sodium for that meal. For more on label reading, check out our December blog here.
One of the easiest ways to avoid added sodium is by avoiding the American Heart Association’s “Salty Six.” These are the six food categories that tend to be highest in sodium. Keep an eye out for these six items!
To limit some of your salt consumption, opt for low sodium or no salt added versions of foods. For canned beans or vegetables, drain and rinse two times to remove some of that salt.
Other Ways to Reduce Sodium Intake
If you want to reduce your sodium intake even further, try some of these tips below:
Heart disease is responsible for 1 in every 3 deaths, killing about 800,000 people in the United States each year. Reducing the sodium intake may help lower blood pressure and can lower your risk of developing heart disease. How will you take care of your heart today? Let us know in the comments below!
Let's Move! STL Dietitians