Beware the Hidden Dangers of Sodium
Too much sodium isn’t good for you. That much we know, right? Excess sodium can raise your blood pressure, make you puffy and bloated, and may even adversely affect cortisol levels in the body (high levels of cortisol have been linked to belly fat). And as if you needed another reason to avoid highly processed foods – they’re often ridiculously high in sodium. But this mineral is also hidden in some unexpected places. Sparkling water, anyone? So check those food labels! Also follow these tips to help you be salt savvy.
1. Limit your overall intake.
People up to age 50 should consume no more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day. And if you’re older than 50, take in no more than 1,500 milligrams a day. The average American consumes more than twice the recommended amount, so don’t let this be you! Quick tip: When checking nutrition labels, make sure that each food item you buy has fewer milligrams of sodium per serving than calories per serving.
2. Always buy the low sodium version.
When shopping be sure to read your labels and purchase the low sodium version of all your favorites. From ketchup to peanut butter, the simple change of purchasing the low salt version will dramatically reduce your overall intake daily.
3. Avoid the “Salty Six”
As I mentioned above, sodium can be found in foods beyond the usual suspects likes chips and fries. The American Heart Association (AHA) compiled a list of half a dozen common foods that are often loaded with excess sodium, which it warned can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. The culprits are:
- Breads and rolls (especially white breads)
- Cold cuts and cured meats (always look for lower-sodium versions of these foods)
- Sandwiches (a sandwich or burger at your typical fast-food place can contain more than 100 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium!)
- Pizza (make it healthier by opting for whole-wheat dough, limiting the cheese, and ditching the pepperoni or sausage)
- Poultry (the way around chicken or turkey meat that’s been “enhanced” with salt water is to buy organic poultry)
- Soup (again, only buy low-sodium or no-salt-added packaged soups)
4. Find other ways to flavor your foods.
Get out of the habit of reaching for the saltshaker at the dinner table. Instead, use natural herbs and spices or salt-free seasonings to enhance your foods.
5. Exercise, up your water intake and eat potassium rich foods.
Exercise, water consumption, and potassium help to flush excess sodium out of your body. So, aim to sweat at least four half hours a week. Drink water until your pee is light as lemonade. And load up on leafy greens, avocados, and bananas.