Do we consume too much salt in America? Yes, in fact, we eat ten times the amount of salt and/or sodium than our ancestors and the dangers of doing so are multiplying. Salt and sodium are pretty much the same thing.
Many think the danger in high salt/sodium consumption is only in those with high blood pressure, but this is not necessarily so. Too much salt can harm healthy people’s hearts, lungs and can shorten the duration of their lives. Salt overload increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes, cataracts, brittle bones, asthma, dementia and early death.
Back in 2001, a news release came out regarding what is called “Salt Sensitivity“. This is considered a genetic condition that causes an abnormal reaction to sodium that is aggravated by salt overload.
Salt sensitivity, they say, with or without high blood pressure, can reduce your survival odds as much as high blood pressure does, doubling your chances of early death mainly from cardiovascular disease. One key explanation for this is the fact that excessive salt can enlarge the heart’s left ventricle, even if one doesn’t suffer from high blood pressure. Too much salt can also make tiny blood vessels in the brain more likely to leak, raising the risk of what is known as bleeding strokes.
There are some doctors in doubt of these new-found facts and not all researchers are in agreement. Many feel that those who eat a lot of vegetables and fruits and get enough calcium are not in any danger from too much salt consumption. If you are in any doubt or are a bit concerned about your salt intake, or are on a blood pressure medication, by all means, discuss this with your doctor.
How much sodium is safe? Most researchers say no more than 1,500 milligrams a day, but while the American Heart Association used to say 2,500 milligrams a day is all right, they have now changed their stance to 1,500mg, as well. Even at this new amount, the average American is still consuming too much salt. Americans are consuming 3,500 to 4,000 milligrams daily with some eating four times that amount.
Where is all this salt/sodium coming from? A lot is hidden in food and we aren’t even aware we are ingesting so much. Therefore, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on food containing excessive amounts.
Here is a breakdown of where all this salt is coming from:
- 10 percent from a natural part of healthful foods
- 15 percent from a salt shaker
- 75 percent that is hidden in processed and restaurant foods
Here are some tips on how you can cut back:
- Remove the salt shaker from the table
- Check labels; sodium varies greatly by brand and many sodium-packed foods don’t taste salty at all. Here’s an example; Cheerios have more sodium per serving than potato chips. The top salt offenders are frozen dinners, pizza, lunchmeat, processed cheese, and canned soup and ramen soup.
- Expect at least 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a simple restaurant meal.
- Asian and Mexican foods contain, on average, 2,000 milligrams per meal.
- Check out our Low Salt/Sodium Recipes