How much salt do you eat every day? Maybe it’s from a few shakes of a saltshaker or a can of soup or a deli sandwich. Sodium is found in two main sources in our diet, packaged/processed foods and by directly adding it from a saltshaker or while cooking. Salt is made of two minerals our bodies need which are sodium and chloride. Sodium helps our bodies maintain our blood pressure and the fluids we need. However, all too often we are eating more than our bodies need to survive. So how much is too much? It’s recommended that 1500mg per day is all we need to help prevent high blood pressure and survive. Even if you do not have high blood pressure less than 2300 mg a day is suggested, which is equal to a teaspoon of salt!
Almost half of adults have high blood pressure and don’t even know it. The best way to know is to have your blood pressure checked regularly and know your numbers. Blood pressure has two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The top number, systolic measures how much pressure there is when your heart beats. The bottom number, diastolic measures how much pressure there is when your heart rests. The higher your blood pressure goes, the more your blood is pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When it is ignored, it can affect our body’s normal functions in several ways. It can contribute to a heart attack by damaging the arteries that can become blocked. A stroke can occur by the blood vessels in the brain bursting more easily. Our vision, which we rely on can be lost due to strain on eye vessels and our kidney function can decline due to artery damage changing the way our blood is filtered in our bodies.
How do your numbers measure up? Check out the chart below to see your risk for high blood pressure.
|Elevated||120-129||Less than 80|
|High-Stage 2||140 or higher||90 or higher|
|Seek immediate medical care||Over 180||Higher then 120|
What are some ways we can make healthier choices to decrease sodium?
Ditch the saltshaker and choose fewer seasonings that have salt in the name such as garlic salt or onion salt. Flavor your foods with fresh or dried herbs and spices. The combinations are endless and a little can go a long way to reach the flavor you desire without the increased health risk. When selecting veggies, choose fresh or frozen over canned when you can. If canned is your only option look for reduced-sodium options and rinse before preparing. It will not remove all of the sodium but will help lower it. Deli meats have very high amounts of sodium in a single portion. Try switching them out or decreasing your portion size. Shred cooked chicken to create your own chicken salad or decrease your portion and replace it with a colorful salad. Be mindful of sauces like BBQ, soy sauce, and even some salad dressings which can pile on the sodium to foods that already contain sodium. Canned soups can be high in sodium, make sure to check out the nutrition facts label and compare sodium numbers to stay within the sodium goal for the day. One way to lower the sodium is by preparing a homemade soup. Create your own with a protein source, vegetables, a carbohydrate, and a liquid. For creamier soups add white beans instead of cream to increase the fiber and decrease the fat. Protein examples include chicken, turkey lentils, black beans, lean beef, or chickpeas. Try vegetables such as green beans, carrots, squash, spinach, or broccoli. Higher in fiber carbohydrates that are important for heart health include brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, and barley. To keep the sodium down try low sodium vegetable or chicken broth.
Shopping the perimeter of the store, including more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat or fat-free dairy can keep you on the right track to heart health and keeping your blood pressure down. Know your numbers and read what’s in the food you are eating for the health of your heart.