November 29, 2022

Salt and sodium often get a bum rap. The fact is, sodium is an essential electrolyte in the body.  It helps muscles to function, regulates the balance of fluids and allows nerves to send out impulses.

The right balance of sodium is essential to our lives whereas too much sodium can lead to health problems, such as high blood pressure. This increases the risk of atherosclerosis (aka hardening of the arteries) and heart attack and stroke.

salt shakerTable salt (sodium chloride) is made of sodium (40% by weight) and chloride (60% by weight).

A teaspoon of salt containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium.  The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day (about 3/4 teaspoons or 3.75 grams of salt per day) and no more than 2,300 mg (one teaspoon and 6 grams of salt per day).

Actually as a parent of a child that suffers from Kidney Disease I have learned quite a bit about Sodium.

It is important to keep sodium down to 500 mg per meal and only 250 mg for any snack

 Sodium and Weight Loss

Sodium does not have any calories and does not affect weight. However, too much sodium can make a person retain fluid, which in turn can make a scale go up.

Even if dieters know its “only water weight,” seeing a scale rise for any reason can be discouraging.

Sodium can also make a person feel bloated (surprisingly, the solution is to drink more water).

Caution: Often food high in sodium will be high in calories. Although the sodium may only cause fluid retention, the French fries the sodium is on can definitely lead to a weight gain.

 Sodium hides

Generally speaking, the salt shaker is not the enemy. No one is likely to dump a teaspoon of salt on a baked potato and devour it. Ugh. And unless the family cook is heavy handed, sodium can be well controlled in the home.

finding sodium in your diet

Sodium is found naturally in many foods and that isn’t a big problem either.

The real enemy is that salt is hidden in so many prepackaged and prepared foods. Sadly, so many foods that we find tasty are the result of high levels of sodium. Even at the deli counter, that delicious sliced turkey or roast beef can be full of sodium.

Even foods touted as “Low Sodium” can be misleading.  Federal law requires food manufacturers to print the sodium content on their nutrition labels.  When buying processed foods, carefully read the labels and then use common sense.

Sodium alternatives

Spices and herbs are a great way to season food without paying the too-much-sodium price. These include basil, oregano, garlic, onion powder, sage, bay leaves, cilantro, allspice, thyme, and black pepper. And don’t forget lemons and limes.

When shopping, choose the low sodium canned soups and canned vegetables, low salt cold cuts.

The list of high sodium foods to avoid represents a good portion of any supermarket – and includes processed meats, canned entrees (e.g., chili), instant soup, some cheeses, pizza, tomato sauces, and many varieties of breads, cereals!  And the list goes on…

Table 1. Sodium Comparisions—As sodium content increases, so does the level of processing.1
Food Item
(1 serving)
Least Processed
Low Sodium
< 100 milligrams (mg)
per serving
Moderately Processed
Elevated Sodium
100-350 milligrams (mg)
per serving
Most Processed
High Sodium
>350 milligrams (mg)
per serving
AppleRaw apple, 2 mgApple pie (frozen), 208 mgApple pie (fast food), 400 mg
BreadLow sodium bread, 7 mgWhite Bread, 114 mgPlain Bagel, 561mg
Cooking fatsVegetable oil, 0 mg
Butter(unsalted), 2 mg
Butter (salted), 116 mg
Margarine, 140 mg
ChickenChicken, 69 mgChicken salad, 290 mgChicken pie (frozen), 907 mg
Chicken noodle soup,
1,107 mg
Chicken dinner (fast food),
2,243 mg
CornFresh corn, 1 mg
Frozen corn,7 mg
Corn flakes, 256 mgCanned corn, 384 mg
CucumberRaw Cucumber, 2 mgSweet pickle, 128 mgDill pickle, 928 mg
Flavorings and MarinadesLemon, 1 mgKetchup, 156 mgSoy sauce, 1,029 mg
SeasoningsHerbs, 1 mgMayonnaise, 103 mgSalt, 1tsp-1,938 mg
PotatoesPotato, 5 mgPotato chips, 200 mgMashed potatoes (instant),
485 mg
Potato salad, 625 mg
DairyPlain yogurt, 105 mgMilk, 122 mg
Buttermilk, 257 mg
Choc. Pudding (instant),
470 mg
Red MeatSteak, 55 mgHam (uncooked), 220mgCorned beef, 802 mg
Jumbo burger (fast food),
990 mg
Lunch Meat (beef, pork),
540 mg
TomatoesRaw Tomato, 14 mgSalsa, 200mgTomato sauce, 1,498 mg
FishFresh Tuna, 50 mgTuna, canned, 384 mgTuna pot pie (frozen),715 mg
Fish sandwich (fast food),
882 mg
NutsPeanuts, unsalted, 8mg
Peanut butter, 81 mg
Peanut brittle, 145 mgDry roasted peanuts, salted,
986 mg
CheeseLow sodium cheddar, 6 mgCheddar cheese, 176 mg
Cottage cheese, 257 mg
American cheese, 406 mg
1Notice that most “elevated” to” high” level sodium foods are processed, meaning they are more likely to contain added ingredients such as preservatives- which means more salt.

 

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