Eating too much salt can increase the risk of high blood pressure for some people, but how much is too much?
Most people in the U.S. eat two times more salt each day than the recommended amount, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). From a pinch here to a sprinkle there, it's hard to get away from the salt shaker. The food industry pumps salt into processed food to increase shelf life and maximize flavor. Even sweets and desserts pack more than enough sodium, and they don't even taste salty. Salt-abuse has become an epidemic, and our bodies may be suffering the consequences. Here are 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Sodium in the kitchen.
Sodium vs. Salt
When talking terminology, it's easy to confuse salt and sodium. Table salt is really sodium chloride–40% sodium and 60% chloride. One teaspoon of salt is equivalent to about 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
The Trouble with Sodium
Our bodies depend on sodium to maintain proper water balance, to transmit nerve impulse, and to aid in contraction and relaxation of muscles. However, high levels can cause the body to retain water, making the heart work harder. So even though a high sodium intake may not directly cause high blood pressure, it's certainly a risk factor for certain segments of the population. For example, African-Americans and individuals with congestive heart failure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease are more sensitive to the effects of sodium on high blood pressure.
Our body only requires 460 milligrams of sodium (about 1/5 of a teaspoon of salt) to maintain good health. The American Heart Association sets the upper limit for sodium at 2,300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt) for healthy Americans. For people who have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, the recommended amount may be lower.
It All Adds Up
You may be surprised at how easy it is to reach the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt a day, even if you're not using the salt shaker. And keep in mind that even when foods are low in calories and fat, they may not be low in salt.
Wheat Thins Toasted Crisps, 100 Calorie Pack= 1/8 tsp.
Thousand Island salad dressing, low-fat, 2 tablespoons = 1/8 tsp.
Peanut Butter and Cheese Crackers, Lance, 1 pack- 1/5 tsp.
Veggie sausage links, 3 = 1/5 tsp.
American cheese, 1 ounce = 1/5 tsp.
Spaghetti sauce, Ragu, 1/2 cup = 1/4 tsp.
Lean Cuisine Rigatoni = 1/4 tsp.
Wheat crackers, Snackwell's, 5 = 1/3 tsp.
Bottled salsa, 1/2 cup = 1/3 tsp.
Bean Burrito with Cheese = 1/3 tsp.
Lean Cuisine Chicken Teriyaki Bowl = 1/3 tsp.
Roast Beef Sandwich, Arby's = 1/2 tsp.
Cheese pizza, 1 slice = 1/2 tsp.
Tuna, canned in water = 1/2 tsp.
Turkey Sub Sandwich, 6-inch = 3/4 tsp.
Chicken Caesar Wrap = 3/4 tsp.
Soft pretzel, large = 1 tsp.
Black beans, 1 can, undrained = 1 tsp.
Progresso Light Italian-Style Vegetable Soup, 1 can = 1 tsp.
See all Low Sodium Recipes