Shaking Up Your Salt Intake: Four Secrets to Managing Sodium

By Sarah Miller

You’ve probably heard that eating too much salt and processed food isn’t good for your body. But what’s so bad about salt, anyway? To start off, salt is a combination of two minerals: 40% sodium and 60% chloride. The problem with sodium isn’t that we shouldn’t have it in our body, but that we have too much of it. Most of the time, way too much.

Sodium is an essential nutrient in our body that helps our muscles contract, sends nerve impulses, and regulates fluid intake so we don’t get dehydrated. An excess of sodium, though, can lead to some harsh consequences, like high blood pressure and even heart attacks.

How It Works

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls more water into your blood vessels. This extra stored water increases the amount of blood flowing through your blood vessels,  ultimately increasing your blood pressure. Our friends at the American Heart Association compare it to “turning up the water supply to a garden hose — the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it.” Consistently high blood pressure puts a strain on your bloodstream, potentially causing blood clots. These blood clots eventually cause blockages that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

 How to Reduce Your Sodium Intake

Nine out of 10 Americans eat too much sodium, so you’re not alone if you’re trying to cut back. In a world where pre-packaged foods flood our grocery store aisles, limiting your sodium intake takes extra vigilance. But, you can do it! Follow these tips and talk to your doctor to get your blood pressure going in the right direction: down. 

  • Read Food Labels
  • Food labels are your key to knowing exactly what’s going into your body. To reduce sodium intake, simply look for labels like “sodium-free” and “very low sodium.” This means that there’s less than 35 mg per serving. The American Heart Association says 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day is ideal for most adults. However, most Americans consume 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. When reading the nutrition facts on your food, pay close attention to the serving size! Packaged food brands often try to trick you into thinking there is a lot less sodium than there truly is, by making the serving size smaller than you’d expect. The Lets Be Well boxes include a grocery store guide to help you interpret food labels.

  • Prepare Your Own Meals
  • Many of the meals you consume at restaurants, cafes and grab-and-go shops are already jam-packed with sodium you don’t need. Help out your heart (and your wallet) by preparing meals at home made of fresh produce and meats. And don’t add salt to them!

  • Buy Fresh, Not Packaged
  • Treat your tastebuds to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats instead of preservative-packed packaged and frozen foods. Remember, if an item can sit in your fridge for many days or weeks without going bad, that usually means it has high sodium. Food like deli meats and canned soup contain sneakily high amounts of sodium! 

  • Use Other Spices
  • Flavor doesn’t go away when you get rid of salt in your meals. In fact, you can probably taste a wider variety of flavors if you nix the salt! Try using spices like nutmeg, parsley, cumin, dill, and other fun substitutes for sodium. 

    You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it’s still true: moderation is key. Simply reading this blog post is your first step to shaking the mystery out of sodium’s effects on your health. Paying attention to your salt intake can not only help your heart and blood pressure, but may also spark some love for those other spices in your kitchen cabinet! 

     “This content is provided for your information only, and should not be relied on as medical advice, you should always consult your own physician before making changes to your own health or treatment plans.”