What are your favourite chips? How do you like your french fries? Do you like soft pretzels? Chances are your mouth watered for at least one of these delicious snacks- the truth is, our bodies are wired to want salt, sugar and fat. There’s even a special formula of those three ingredients that food companies use to make their foods ‘irresistible’. But did you know that just one NY style soft pretzel has more than 1,100milligrams of sodium?
Salt is in almost everything we consume, even spinach and whole grain bread (boiled spinach: 120 milligrams of salt, Whole grain bread: 125 milligrams of salt). Americans consume between 2,000 and 8,000 milligrams of salt a day- our maximum required salt intake is about 2,300milligrams of salt a day. Long-term excess salt intake leads to serious medical problems, such as increased blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart disease, kidney stones and even osteoporosis (salt causes calcium to leach from the body into urine, damaging the kidneys while weakening bones). Doctors speculate that by reducing salt in the American diet, 35,000 lives would be saved each year, 6,000 preventable disabilities would be avoided and another 6,000 would be prevented from suffering a long-term disability after a stroke or heart attack. Thousands of heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year just by passing up on the salt!
Some studies are finding that even short exposures to large quantities of salt can be damaging; this article from Fitness Magazine gives a great little eye-opener:
You know excess sodium can cause health problems down the road, but a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a single salty mean can do damage in just half an hour. “We think sodium may interfere with your body’s production of nitric oxide, a gas that helps your blood vessels expand,” says study author Kacie Dickinson, a researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. “When there’s not enough nitric oxide in your blood vessels, it becomes easier for cholesterol to stick to their walls.”
It’s not necessary to throw away every salty snack you enjoy, but it is a good idea to limit your salt intake whenever possible; lowering your intake now can prevent problems down the road. Here are some great tips from EzineArticles on ways to easily reduce your daily salt intake:
- Don’t use salt when you are cooking (or just use a tiny amount). Add just a pinch when the food is on the table.
- Use no-sodium seasonings as well as herbs and spices to add lots of flavor without the salt.
- Buy low-sodium chicken broth and use it to cook with instead of the regular broth that’s full of salt.
- Soy sauce has a lot of salt in it. Opt for a low-sodium version instead.
- Use fresh meats and produce when you cook. Fresh food has a lot more flavor and won’t need as much salt
- Don’t salt your pasta or rice water.
- Buy low or no-sodium versions of food
- Cut down on fast food and salty snacks. Grab some fresh fruit or veggies instead.
- Read the label. Pay attention to the amount of sodium that’s included on the nutritional facts label. You’ll be surprised how much sodium a can of condensed soup or even a slice of bread has.
- Rinse canned fish and vegetables to remove some of the salt.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day to help your body remove any excess salt that is in your system.
These simple ideas can help reduce your sodium intake by as little as 10% or as much as 40%! As Americans, we are accustomed to overly salty foods, so reduce your salt intake slowly to get your taste buds ready for the change; then prepare yourself to taste the true flavours of the foods you eat everyday.