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Published on November 02, 2011

Making Sense of Sodium

November 2, 2011

An Essential Mineral

Sodium is vital to human life. It is in every cell in your body. It's required for muscle contraction and fluid balance. Your body can't make it and you can't live without it but too much sodium is not good, as it is associated with elevated blood pressure. So, sodium is an important nutrient in your diet, yet one that needs to be moderated. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average adult should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. For those with high blood pressure, 1,500 milligrams is the limit.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Research shows that Americans are eating too much of this vital mineral. We take in about 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day in the form of sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt. Yet, our over consumption of salt is generally not from what occurs naturally In many foods, or what we add in cooking or sprinkle at the table. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we get 77% of our sodium intake from processed foods. Many frozen prepared meals have a full day's supply of sodium.

Learn to be Sodium Smart Away from Home

So how do you get just enough sodium without overdoing it? One way is to look for meals and snacks lower in sodium. Look for foods prepared from scratch using chef developed recipes that meet sensible nutrition guidelines for calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and fiber. Also, look for meals with no more than 800 milligrams of sodium and approved snacks that have no more than 360 milligrams of sodium.

  • Fresh fruit
  • Simply to Go fresh fruit cups
  • Simply to Go vegetable snack cups
  • Greens at the salad bar
  • Fresh vegetables at the salad bar
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds Dried fruits
  • Vinegars for seasoning
  • Fruit juices
  • Low-fat yogurt Low-fat milk
  • Sparkling spring water
  • Spring water

Learning to be Sodium Smart at Home

There are many choices you can make at home to help control how much sodium you and your family consume every day. Here are some tips:

  • Purchase whole unprocessed foods
  • Look for low sodium foods (less than 140 milligrams per serving)
  • Choose canned foods with no salt added
  • Select lean meats, poultry and fish over canned or further processed proteins
  • Cook pasta, rice, cereals and other whole grains without added salt
  • Try salt-free seasoning blends
  • Avoid prepared sauces, mixes, marinades
  • Make your own sauces and marinades using salt free seasonings
  • Experiment with other herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals
  • Train your children to enjoy a low sodium lifestyle

New Ways to Season Your Food

Preference for salt as a seasoning is actually learned or acquired. You can modify your taste for salt over time by using other flavorings.

  • Fresh or dried herbs
    • Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking
    • Dried herbs taste best when cooked at least 30 minutes
    • Try fresh or dried rosemary tossed with washed, quartered, new potatoes mixed with garlic and olive oil and baked.
  • Grated fresh ginger or horseradish
    • Try either in a stir-fry or add equal parts to plain low-fat yogurt and low-fat sour cream for a zesty dip.
  • Citrus zest or juice
    • Use to poach fish or poultry or add to cooked vegetables.
  • Toasted seeds/nuts
    • Sprinkle over salad or cooked vegetables.
  • Vinegar and seasoned vinegars made without salt
    • Add to cooked fish, or cooked greens.
  • Dry mustard
    • Use as part of a seasoning rub for meat, fish or poultry.
  • Hot peppers
    • Add to any dish that needs some zing.
  • Low sodium bouillon
    • Cook vegetables in liquid or use as the base for a sauce.
  • Pesto made with herbs, toasted pine nuts, fresh garlic and olive oil
    • Add to cooked pasta.

Source: Wellness & You by Sodexo - Making Sense of Sodium


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