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Eating Right with Less Salt

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by Hayley Chemski, MSN, CRNA and Certified Fitness Trainer

In honor of National Nutrition Month, let’s set a heart healthy goal of eating less salt!

Most of us consume too much salt (sodium) on a daily basis; typical salt intake is 2,400-4,500 mg/day. This issue is largely related to the high amount of processed foods we are bombarded with at the grocers and deli, and at restaurants. Of interest, sodium plays a detrimental role in high blood pressure and by lowering your intake you can lower your risk of hypertension. As you are aware from our prior columns in the Laurel Mountain Post, hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease, small vessel disease, and other symptoms like dizziness, blurred vision, and brain fog.

The following guidelines for salt intake were distributed in 2010 by the ADA (American Dietetic Association): everyone, even children, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends levels of less than 2,000mg/day. The recommendation for salt is about the same amount as one full teaspoon of salt. Adults 51 years of age or older, African Americans of any age, and those afflicted by high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease should maintain a sodium intake of less than 1,500 milligrams/day.

This may sound like a tall order. How does one fall within the appropriate guidelines without suffering bland foods at every meal? Here’s how.

  • Create a diet high in FRESH food components!

Choose foods that are close to their original form. Refuse to eat foods of the factory, and instead eat foods of the land. Examples may include fruits, vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yogurt and grains. Limit these foods if canned, frozen with preservatives, or boxed. Eat the “real thing.” Make a goal to eat at least one of these foods each time that you eat.

Processed foods are high in sodium, hence the preservation to eat at a later date. Examples include cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli or luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli and soups.

  • Cook at home to control your ingredients!

Enjoy home-prepared foods where you are in control of how much salt is added. Use little or no additional salt when cooking. Try to incorporate ingredients that are fresh or frozen without additives. Use flavorings that are salt-free! Consider using herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper or lemon juice.

If you are out and about, don’t feel hesitant to ask the chef/cook to limit use of added salt in the recipe. Choose fresh options off of the menu, those that are made to order and not made days prior.

  • Read food labels!

Take the time to read what you are eating. You may be surprised by the milligrams of salt in each serving you are enjoying. Many companies are making “lower sodium” options. Beware of condiments that add taste by adding salt, which may include soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressing and seasoning packets. If you are using canned vegetables, consider rinsing the item prior to use.

  • Maintain your hydration!

Flush your body’s water regulatory system by maintaining your hydration. Textbook models have shown that appropriate hydration is met at 6-8 glasses of clear liquids each day. When the kidneys are faced with excess fluid or excess salt, they will be better equipped if the blood is full of water and not concentrated. Moreover, hydration will prevent bloating by flushing the kidneys of excess salt.

Simple tricks can help you to maintain your salt intake at an appropriate level and decrease your risk of high blood pressure. Coming off of February, which is Women’s Heart Disease  Awareness Month, we are more and more astute to obtaining reasonable control of many health disorders; we should take control of that which we can control. Here’s to a healthier heart and a less bloated you.

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