For Your Good Health: Put Your Salt Shaker On The Shelf
And Not On Your Food
I am reminded of the apocryphal story of the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, who refused to hire his laboratory engineer because he added salt to his soup without tasting it. (Perhaps it didn't need the extra salt since he didn't taste the soup!) Now I know that the scientist may have not only have landed a prestigious job in the great Edison's lab but also might have improved his health if he placed the salt shaker on the shelf.
Although our body needs some sodium to function properly, sodium in excess can be deleterious. Sodium helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body. It helps transmit nerve impulses, and also influence the contraction and relaxation on muscles.
Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in your body. When sodium levels are low, your kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount of salt in the urine. If the kidneys can eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. The increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to pump the expanded blood volume through the blood vessels, thus increasing the pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, liver disease, and chronic kidney disease can contribute to the inability to regulate sodium.
How much sodium do you need and how much is enough? The averaged adult consumes more than 3,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Most doctors recommend that you should limit your salt intake to 2300 mg/day or to 1500mg/day if you have high blood pressure or serious heart or kidney disease.
The average U. S. diet has three main sources of sodium:
- Processed and prepared foods. Most sodium in a person's diet comes from eating processed and prepared foods, such as canned vegetables, soups, luncheon meats and frozen foods. Food manufacturers use salt or other sodium-containing compounds to preserve food and to improve the taste and texture of food.
- Sodium-containing condiments. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce has 1,005 mg of sodium. Adding these or other sodium-laden condiments to your meals - either while cooking or at the table - raises the sodium count of food.
- Natural sources of sodium. Sodium naturally occurs in some foods, such as meat, poultry, dairy products and vegetables. For example, 1 cup of low-fat milk has about 110 mg of sodium.
Cutting your salt intake.
You can control your sodium intake several ways:
Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Also, fresh meat is lower in sodium than luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham are.
Opt for low-sodium products. If you do buy processed foods, select those that have reduced sodium.
Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. You can leave out the salt in many recipes, including casseroles, stews and other main dishes. Baked goods are an exception. Leaving out the salt could affect the quality as well as the taste of the food.
Limit your use of sodium-laden condiments. Salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium.
Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance foods. Learn how to use fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit and fruit juices to jazz up your meals.
Use salt substitutes wisely. Some salt substitutes or light salts contain a mixture of table salt (sodium chloride) and other compounds. To achieve that familiar salty taste, you may use too much of the substitute and actually not reduce your sodium intake. In addition, many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Though dietary potassium can lessen some of the harm of excess sodium, too much supplemental potassium can be harmful if you have kidney problems or if you're taking medications for congestive heart failure or high blood pressure that cause potassium retention.
Your taste for salt is acquired, so it's reversible. To unlearn this salty savoring, decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. Most people find that after a few weeks of cutting their salt intake, they no longer miss it. Start by using no more than 1/4 teaspoon of added salt daily, then gradually reduce to no salt add-ons. As you use less salt, your preference for it lessens, allowing you to enjoy the taste of food itself.
Bottom Line: Often times there is little you can do change the risk of some of the most common chronic diseases. One of the easiest, least expensive and most effective is to deep-six the salt.
Reprinted with permission from Neil Baum, neilbaum.com
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