Did you know that U.S. guidelines call for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day? That’s about 1 teaspoon of table salt (Source).
According to Real Simple Magazine:
Sodium is an essential nutrient that is critical for transmitting nerve impulses, contracting and relaxing muscles, and maintaining the fluid balance in your body.
When you consume too much sodium, your kidneys must get rid of the excess. Experts theorize that if your kidneys can’t keep up, then water is pulled from cells, causing blood volume to increase, which forces your heart to work harder and puts blood vessels under more pressure. This may raise your blood pressure and, in turn, your chances of heart attack and stroke.
If you’re wondering how much sodium you consume daily or weekly, it might help to think about the following:
- Do you eat out often? When you eat meals at restaurants, it’s difficult to determine how much sodium you’re actually consuming. In some cases the meal you eat contains a high level of sodium even before the cook adds salt and other seasoning mixes for additional flavor. It’s the high salt and butter levels in restaurant food that has it taste so great. Our brains are hardwired to desire and crave salt (as well as sugar and fat) so the more you eat, the more you want and it becomes addictive.
- Are you trying to save time in your day by eating fast food? In addition to adding additional flavor to food, salt is also used to preserve foods. When you eat at fast food restaurants—places that cook heavily-preserved foods—you’re eating high levels of sodium. For example, a Big Mac from McDonald’s contains about 1,040 mg of sodium. And if you want an even better reason for nixing fast food from your diet forever, watch the informative, shocking, and compelling documentary Super Size Me ~ you can rent it on Netflix and watch it with your kids. We did and it ended the interest, requests, and arguments for fast food fare.
- Are you eating the right breakfast? It’s one of the most important meals of the day, but if you start your day with high-calorie mixed coffee drinks and items from the bakery, you’re consuming a lot of unnecessary levels of sodium.
- Do you look at food labels before you buy your groceries? You might be paying attention to food labels before you cook meals, but are you also looking while you’re still in the store—before you actually purchase the items on your list? Paying attention to the amount of sodium will help you keep track of how much you ‘re actually consuming. You may be shocked at how much sodium is in your everyday purchases; it adds up fast! For example, a can of Campbell’s Chunky Classic Chicken Noodle Soup contains around 790 mg of sodium!
Sodium is an important part of our diet, but like many things, it’s all about moderation. If you’re truly interested in reducing your salt intake, take a moment and watch the featured video above.
Extra tip: Try keeping a daily tally of the foods you eat and drink, and calculate how much sodium is in each. Compare your sodium intake levels to what is recommended (2,300 milligrams, or about 1,500 milligrams or less if you’re over 51).