Too Much Salt In Your Diet?

Photo Credit: Dubravko Sorić CC-BY-2.0

Sodium, or salt, is an essential nutrient. Your body needs a small amount of salt to maintain fluid balance and help transmit electrical signals through the nerves. Salt is also necessary for proper muscle function. Some table salt also contains trace amounts of iodine which is necessary for a healthy thyroid gland. Salt is added to processed food as a preservative. The growth of yeast, mold and bacteria are inhibited by the addition of sodium chloride (salt) to processed food during preparation. Many people add salt to their food during or after cooking to enhance flavor. People who eat some processed foods, such as canned soups or frozen meals, may be getting too much salt if they add more before eating. The USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends about 1/4 teaspoon of salt daily for healthy adults and children, or less than 2,300 milligrams per day.
People with hypertension, high blood pressure, kidney problems and those who want to cut down on their salt intake can take some steps to eat a healthy diet without additional salt. Eat more fresh foods, like whole grains, fish, lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Avoid canned and frozen processed foods or choose processed foods labeled “low” or “reduced” sodium. Foods labeled “no salt added” are also good choices to help reduce salt in your diet. Condiments, including mustard, ketchup and salad dressings, are usually high in sodium. Use condiments sparingly or use low-sodium alternatives. 
Avoid adding salt to your food before you eat it. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to enhance the flavor of foods. You can omit salt from most recipes when cooking. You can also reduce salt in your diet when eating at a restaurant by ordering from the heart-healthy menu or choosing low-sodium options. Request sodium-free or low-sodium salad dressings and sauces for your food. 

For more information about sodium in your diet, see:
Mayo Clinic, Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now

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