Salt Intake

Did you know that all the salt we need each day is the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt crystals? And, most of that is already added to the fast foods that we eat. If you’ve ever read the nutritional information on that cheeseburger you are eating or those fries, you might faint. We are talking about 2,000 to 2,500 milligrams a day. You can get at least half or more in one box of small fries.

Processed frozen foods also are a hidden source of salt. Make it a habit to read labels from now on. You will find a lot of useful information there. If the total salt is given in grams, just add three zeros to the number and you will find out the sodium content in milligrams.

What is it about salt that the body doesn’t like? A certain amount of sodium is okay. It helps to keep muscles moving and the electrical conduction system of nerves working as it should. But, too much salt can cause the body to retain water in the tissues. This can manifest itself in swollen feet, hands and face. No one wants that.

Increased salt intake can also raise your blood pressure as a result of the fluid retention. That means your heart will have to pump harder to pass blood throughout your body. This higher flow can lead to stroke or heart attack if you have clogged arteries and high cholesterol.

So what can you do to decrease the amount of salt you take in and increase your health?

* Reduce the amount of fast foods that you eat – This is easier said than done but can reduce your daily salt intake by about 80 percent if you are a person who likes to eat out. Remember, restaurants season their food before it gets to you and you have no way of knowing what has sodium and what does not. Just because you can’t taste it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

* Cut out table salt – Instead of using more sodium, even light salt, opt for other spices that add a kick to the dish: cumin, curry, red pepper, thyme, oregano, cilantro and others.

* Cook more often – Even frozen foods contain salt. For canned vegetables, rinse them off and then simmer in water instead of the juice in the can. Use broth to flavor rice and vegetables instead of salt, high sodium sauces and gravies.