Salt: Are You Above Average?

Are You Above Average?
by Deb Woelfel, MHT, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator 
You have heard the advice, "limit your salt intake to be healthy" but what does that mean? How much is too much? Where do you find it?  Is it enough to just get rid of the salt shaker?
Salt is not actually the problem.  Salt is actually a combination of sodium chloride. Excess sodium can elevate blood pressure and promote water retention which can lead to kidney and heart disease and strokes.  Americans average about 3,600mg sodium per day, so for most people there is room for improvement.
So how much is too much? The American Heart Association recommends <2300mg sodium per day.  People with certain health problems may be recommended to limit their sodium to <1500mg per day. To put this in perspective a teaspoon of salt contains 2300mg sodium.  Wonder if you use more than a teaspoon a day? Then empty your salt shaker, put a teaspoon of salt in it and see how long it lasts.
But beware! The salt shaker is not the only place sodium is found. People add it to their cooking and many packaged foods contain large amounts of sodium.  Most restaurant meals are exceptionally high in sodium. Thanks to labels it is now easier to know what a food contains. When reading labels for sodium here is what to look for:
Sodium -------------------------------------
  • Indicates the total amount of sodium in one serving of this product.
  • This food has 300mg of sodium
    per 1/2 cup.

For most people, not using the salt shaker, keeping the majority of your foods <140mg per serving and not eating out frequently is enough to meet the recommendations of 2300mg sodium per day.  

Remember, salt is just one option for seasoning your food. Check out Angela's suggestions for Creative, Healthy Ways to Liven Up Your Meals while keeping your sodium/salt in check!