Why You Should Tame Your Salt Habit Now
Have you ever wondered why eating out is always more appealing than making your own food? Aside from the fact that you don’t have to labor and clean up afterwards, meals prepared for you always seem more appetizing, the kind that actually tickles your taste buds!
The truth is a lot of us love flavor in our food. No one will enjoy eating something so bland. But is ‘flavorful’ always the way to go when it comes to our health?
Speaking about flavor, good ‘ol salt probably makes it to everyone’s kitchen list (yours and your favorite restaurant’s).
Our bodies need a very small amount of salt to survive. The primary element that we get from salt – sodium – is used by the body to contract and relax muscles, ensure normal cell function, carry out nerve impulses and uphold proper water and mineral balance. Our bodies also need sodium, to control blood pressure and blood volume, but too much of it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Our bodies also need sodium, to control blood pressure and blood volume, but too much of it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Salt (sodium) occurs naturally in most foods like milk and meat, but what largely supplies our body with salt is not the one in your salt shaker. In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), approximately 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from sodium added to processed foods and restaurant foods. Just think about pizza, mac and cheese, soups, cold cuts, canned goods and diner dishes!
Here are a few things you need to know about salt and your diet.
To reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease in adults, The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a reduction to less than 2000mg (2g) sodium per day.
By weight, table salt (sodium chloride) is approximately 40% sodium.
1/4 teaspoon salt = 575 mg sodium
1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150 mg sodium
3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
1 tablespoon of soy sauce (18g) contains 1006mg of sodium.
2 teaspoons of reduced-fat Italian salad dressing (30g) contains 410mg of sodium.
1 cup of ready-to-serve chicken noodle soup (245g) contains 840mg of sodium.
6 spears of asparagus contains 10mg of sodium.
1 leaf of lettuce contains 2mg of sodium.
1 baked potato contains 7mg of sodium.
1 teaspoon of baking soda contains 1,000mg of sodium.
The Salty Six
The six popular foods that can add HIGH levels of sodium to your diet includes breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, poultry, pizza, soup (canned), and sandwiches (fast food). See AHA’s infographic here.
Foods don't necessarily have to taste salty to be salty. Be vigilant when shopping. Always read the nutrition labels in packed foods and whenever possible, look for products that has lowest amount of sodium.
In the US, Food labels cannot claim a product is "healthy" if it has more than 480 mg of sodium per labeled serving (for individual foods) or more than 600 mg of sodium per labeled serving for meals/main dishes.
What about you? How conscious are you of your daily salt intake? Do you use a lot of salt when cooking for your family? Do you often eat out and shop for processed foods?
- American Heart Association: Sodium and Salt
- World Action on Salt & Health: Common Questions about Salt
- Harvard School of Public Health: Salt and Sodium
- World Health Organization: WHO recommendations
- Cleveland Clinic: Low-Sodium Diet Guidelines