Every person needs a small amount of sodium in their diet to control their nervous system, relax and contract muscles, and maintain a proper balance of water and minerals in their body. Sodium is ingested through a chemical called sodium chloride, also known as salt. It’s used in countless food items as a preservative, a seasoning, or even a binding agent. It’s recommended that an adult consumes less than 2300mg of sodium per day; however, most Americans consume around 3400mg.
Those who have a high sodium diet are at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, not to mention the short-term side effects of nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and others. When your bloodstream accumulates too much sodium, your body will move water from your cells into your blood as an attempt to dilute it. This process may harm the ability of your cells to function, so balancing your sodium levels with the methods listed below are important to good health.
Be vigilant when purchasing food items
Checking the nutrition labels on foods is helpful not only for lowering sodium consumption, but for maintaining a well-structured diet all around. Checking these labels before you eat foods, or even better before you buy it, can help you know which foods are high in salt. Foods that don’t taste salty can also be misleading about their sodium content, so it’s best to check before eating.
Buy fresh vegetables and meats
While reading nutrition labels is essential to reducing salt intake, buying fresh foods is also a great way to lower sodium in your diet. Pre-packaged vegetables may have salt already added as a seasoning, so buying fresh can eliminate that risk. Many meats (and fish) are naturally salty, but they are also commonly salted as a means of preservation. It may help flavor and texture, but the sodium has the ability of staying on the meat even after it is packaged. The fresher the meat, the less preservatives that are added to it.
Choose different spices and seasonings
When you shop for different seasonings in the grocery store, nearly all of them contain salt, but it really isn’t necessary to keep your food flavorful. Making small changes, like using garlic powder instead of garlic salt, keeps the flavor while leaving out the sodium. In small amounts, salt is used to elevate the flavors of other spices in a dish, but it isn’t a great seasoning on its own. Try experimenting with different spices without the use of salt to not only make food taste better, but to keep your sodium intake low.