Sodium has been a double edge sword for as long as I can remember. As humans, we need sodium to survive but too much, for too long can hurt our health. In the culinary world, sodium gives food flavor, helps awaken our tastebuds, and helps to preserve food giving it a long shelf life. Sodium in high amounts can also raise our blood pressure, over time leading to heart disease. We have a love - hate relationship with sodium and a few new sodium research studies just potentially made things a little more complicated for the world's favorite flavor enhancer - salt!
New Sodium Research Says ..
Eating the lowest amount of sodium might not be as healthy as we previously thought
Currently, the Dietary Guidelines recommend we have no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, which is about a teaspoon of table salt. We have always thought that the less salt we eat, the better but new sodium research is showing that lower isn't exactly healthier. Recently, research is suggesting that people who eat 2,300mg of sodium per day (right at the upper daily recommendation) are actually more heart healthy than people who eat much less sodium per day.
When we don't eat enough salt, our body releases hormones that try to preserve and save as much salt as possible. Unfortunately, those same salt-saving hormones also create inflammation in the body which, down the line, could hurt your heart and arteries. Interestingly enough, eating too much salt (more than one and a half teaspoons of salt) also causes your heart and arteries to strain by increasing your blood pressure, making your heart work harder to pump blood through your body.
What does this mean for you?
If you live a healthy lifestyle, consistently check food labels, eat mostly unprocessed and home cooked whole foods, you can fearlessly add a little more salt to your meals - no more than a teaspoon of table salt for the day. On the flip side, the group of people who are not eating enough sodium is very small, with most people eating too much salt which is hurting their health. The average American eats 3,400 mg of sodium per day, going way above the daily salt recommendation. The sneaky high sodium culprits? Pizza, bread, cheese, cold cuts, soups, chicken, condiments, and many other every-day foods.
So, the real question is, do you know how much sodium you are eating? Which camp do you fall in: A) Don't eat enough sodium, or B) Eat too much sodium. And, most importantly, if you can't answer that question, you really need to find out!
Knowing & Lowering Your Sodium Numbers
Track your sodium intake: USDA Super Tracker, American Heart Association's Sodium Tracker, Get the Facts: Sources of Sodium in Your Diet
If your sodium intake is too high: Change Your Salty Ways in 21 Days, How to Reduce Your Sodium, The Salty 6: Surprising Foods that Add the Most Sodium to Our Diets
*If you have any questions about salt, your heart, and overall health, consult your doctor and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in heart health.
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