How sodium impacts your health From processed foods to the salt shaker, most Americans get more than twice as much sodium as they need. But do we really understand how much it affects our heart and vascular system?
Sodium is essential in small amounts. It helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, helps transmit nerve impulses, and helps your muscles contract and relax. Unfortunately, when you consume too much sodium, your body may hold extra fluid. This can lead to high blood pressure as your heart works harder to pump blood through the body. Too much sodium in the diet may also have other harmful health effects, including increased risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.
The American Heart Association recommends that you aim to eat less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. To do that, try following some of these tips for reducing sodium in your diet:
Read the Nutrition Facts label to determine the amount of sodium in the foods you buy
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of the canned alternatives or salted snack foods; if you use canned vegetables, rinse them well
Limit the amount of processed food you eat and your portion size
Avoid adding salt when cooking and/or eating
Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food, as most contain very small amounts of sodium
When dining out, ask for your dish to be prepared without salt
Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to fish and vegetables
Choose lower sodium varieties of condiments, such as ketchup and soy sauce