We have all heard that we need to cut back on sodium; the Recommended Daily Intake for most Americans is less than 2,300 mg a day, but most of us consume upwards of 3,400 mg! The RDI for sodium is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon of table salt, but most of our dietary sodium doesn’t come from table salt – it comes from processed and convenience foods. Studies have shown that the majority of a typical American’s diet comes from processed foods, so it’s no surprise that sodium intakes are so high in this country. Not only can consuming too much sodium cause visible signs like fluid retention and bloating, but it can lead to high blood pressure and the serious health consequences (like an increased risk of heart attack and stroke) that come along with it.
It can seem difficult to control your sodium intake given the high sodium counts in foods we consume every day. The most common sources of dietary sodium are:
- breads and rolls
- chicken and chicken dishes
- egg dishes
- pasta dishes
All of these foods can still be enjoyed in moderation, especially if you take steps to look for lower-sodium alternatives. Read labels and look for lower-sodium varieties of your favorite products:
- Sodium-free = less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
- Very-low-sodium = 35 mg or less of sodium per serving
- Low-sodium = 140 mg or less of sodium per serving
- Reduced or less sodium = sodium at least 25% less per serving than the regular version of that food
- Light or light in sodium = sodium at least 50% less per serving than the regular version of that food
- No salt added = no salt is added during the processing in a food that usually had salt added
A good rule of thumb is that products containing less than 5% of the RDI for sodium are low-sodium and good choices, while those containing more than 25% of the RDI are high-sodium and poor choices.
When preparing meals at home, try lowering their sodium content by substituting spices for salt, limiting condiments and sauces (which tend to be very high in sodium), and rinsing canned veggies or beans before consuming (you’ll get rid of around half of the sodium this way). Additionally, try to consume as many high-potassium foods as possible – potassium helps clear sodium from your body. Good sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, mushrooms, oranges, bananas, and low-fat and fat-free milk and yogurt.