Today, Friday, February 15, 2019

Reducing Salt Intake is Crucial to your Health

Has your doctor ever told you to cut down on your salt intake? If you are age 40 or over, chances are you have heard it somewhere before. Salt is a major contributor to hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease. Cutting down on your salt intake can help prevent a heart attack and increase the length of your life.


A research study published earlier this year reports that almost 70% of all adults have risk factors that warrant a low-salt diet. Previous recommendations on salt intake were made in 2005 by the Department of Health and Human Services along with the Department of Agriculture. They recommend a maximum salt intake of 2,300 milligrams per day for healthy adults.


Salt Intake and Risk Factors


Those who have risk factors are advised to follow a daily maximum of 1,500 mg of sodium.  to be in that group, you only have to meet one of these three different risk factors: hypertension diagnosis, over 40 years old, or you are African-American.  A total of 145 million Americans already exhibit one of these risk factors--that's 69.2% of all Americans who are age 20 and older. High blood pressure was considered to be 140/90 or higher or if you were already taking medication for hypertension.


While these figures for at-risk Americans seem to be very high, all it takes is shifting focus to a low-salt diet to reduce the likelihood of getting high blood pressure or heart disease. There are many dietary changes you can make to lower your salt intake. Nutritionists tell us that only 11% of the salt we consume is salt that we actually add to our food either while cooking it or eating it. On average, 77% of all the salt we eat comes from processed foods and foods we bought already prepared.


So, why do our bodies need salt anyway? Salt intake is needed to contract muscles, to keep fluids in balance and to send nerve impulses. Sodium is regulated by the kidneys. Take in too much sodium and it is excreted through the urine. Don't take in enough sodium, and the body will save and conserve it. If salt intake is too high, the fluid level in the blood will increase, and the heart will start to have more trouble pumping blood.


How to Lower Salt Intake


When you look at ways to lower salt intake, think about how much soda you consume and the foods you eat.  As processed foods and already prepared foods make up the bulk of the sodium we eat, this is the biggest area in which to eliminate salt. These kinds of foods include luncheon meats, bacon, soups, frozen foods, etc. Look, for instance, at the amount of sodium in a TV dinner. It might be as much as 700 mgs.or more. Boxed items like macaroni and cheese are high in sodium content as well.


In order to cut down on sodium intake, it is necessary to start reading the labels on all the foods you buy. That way you will know if the amount is reasonable or if it is way too much. Along with processed foods, condiments are also generally high in salt.  For example, one teaspoon of regular table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium. A tablespoon of soy sauce will have almost 1,000 mg.


Other foods, such as dairy products, poultry, meat, and vegetables, all have varying amounts of salt occurring naturally in them. When you read labels, note the ingredients contained in the food that have sodium content. One of the biggest is MSG (monosodium glutamate).  Also, look for sodium nitrate or nitrite, disodium phosphate, baking powder, baking soda, or sodium alginate.


Changing Habits


If you are someone with risk factors who needs to eliminate sodium, you can begin by eating fewer processed foods. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables, and buy meat that is fresh. Many times you can find local, organically grown poultry, beef or pork that does not have added salt at all. If you continue to buy processed foods, go with ones labeled as having lower sodium.


If you make most of your own meals, you can remove salt from the recipes entirely or dramatically cut down the amount of salt you use. Don't use too much in the way of condiments--these include ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, and other foods like these. Instead, add a variety of spices, herbs and garnishes. Before using too much of a salt substitute, check it out to make sure it is low sodium. Some of them have more sodium than salt.


Another thing to remember if you must reduce your salt intake is that you weren't born craving salt. Salt is an acquired taste. Many people who stop using salt don't even miss it. If it bothers you too much, start out slowly. Maybe you always added butter and salt to your vegetables. Since you have probably been using salted butter anyway, use just the butter in your veggies and eliminate the salt. Eventually, you may want to eliminate the butter too.


Once you start decreasing your salt intake, you may eventually lose your taste for it.  Control dietary salt intake well enough, and you may never have to go on blood pressure medicine at all. That alone would make cutting back on salt more than worth it, and probably add years to your life.                                                                                                                          

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