Sodium — that is, salt — is the food industry’s dirty little secret for taste enhancement and cost savings in the production of food. If you deconstructed a corn chip or cheese doodle, you’d realize these snacks are essentially puffs of air coated in salt and processed flavor powder. Yuck!
But put these salty snack foods in a package of screaming rainbow colors and advertise them with a funny commercial and, well, we seem to not be able to resist.
Snacks aren’t the only place where excessive sodium lurks. Restaurants rely on it, too. Spices, rubs, marinades and those cute little dribbles of sauce on the plate are where most of the sodium is hidden in the world of fine dining, while fast staples such as burgers and fries are often loaded with sodium. The reason is simple: sodium adds flavor and can mask lesser quality ingredients.
- If you are healthy and have no family history of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming no more than the 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, if you are in certain risk categories — if you have a family history of high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease; if you are African American; if you are 51 years old or over; if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease — the American Heart Association recommends your daily sodium intake be 1,500 milligrams per day.
- Know your personal health history, particularly your blood pressure and weight, and consult with your doctor about what to do next. Many physicians recommend the DASH diet, which follows a high-fiber and low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and poultry and beans.
- Find flavor from places other than sodium. For instance, use roasted garlic, caramelized onions and fresh or dried herbs rather than salt
- Keep a food record so that when you make a change you can see your progress in writing.
- Don’t forget to exercise at least 150 minutes per week … better yet, make it one hour a day. Exercise will help keep your blood pressure normal — and also help keep your body strong and fit, your mind clear, your kidneys working right and your weight down.