Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Sodium Radar Screen

Excess salt in the diet raises blood pressure, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. A recent study from Europe included 170,000 participants and revealed that by reducing sodium intake to 2000 mg a day could lead to 23% fewer strokes and 17% less cardiovascular disease. That translates to 1.25 million deaths due to stroke and nearly 3 million deaths each year from cardiovascular disease could be avoided.
The average American consumes around 4000 mg of sodium a day.
Sodium is an electrolyte and a necessary nutrient. The daily requirement for the healthy adult is approx 2000 - 3000 mg per day. Sodium sensitive adults with hypertension are usually advised to limiting their sodium intake to 1000 - 2000 mg per day. It's wise for everyone to be aware of their sodium intake and adjust accordingly.
To avoid excess salt, check the Nutrition Facts panels on packages to find lower-sodium foods. Many canned and processed foods are extremely high in sodium - especially soups. Beware of misleading labels; "Sea Salt" is sodium chloride - same as table salt. It is a coarser grain so you get less in a measured spoonful; it is not a magic "low sodium" form of salt. Sea salt adds only a flavor variation and does not contain iodine. Regular table salt is fortified with iodine as recommended by the USDA to reduce iodine insufficiency that leads to thyroid disorders and related diseases.
Another way to reduce sodium intake is to eat more fresh foods prepared from scratch. This way you can control the amount of salt added. Use herbs and seasonings to add flavor. Salt substitutes can interact with some medications, so check with your doctor or a dietitian if you are taking a prescription medication.
~ British Medical Journal, 2009

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