Health & Medicine

Why you should pay attention to your salt intake

We hear a lot about how salt is bad for you. I want to emphasize that the true cause for concern is your overall sodium consumption. Common table salt, or sodium chloride, is about 40 percent sodium by weight.

According to the Institute of Medicine, consuming high levels of sodium increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by raising your blood pressure. Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States, respectively. According to the World Action on Salt and Health, about 2.5 million deaths per year could be prevented globally simply by a reduction in sodium intake.

There are several ways to reduce your sodium intake. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating foods as close as possible to their original form, such as whole fruits and vegetables, and to avoid processed and ready-to-eat foods most of the time.

Preparing food at home is a great way to control the amount of sodium that goes into your food. Focus on herbs and spices rather than salt to amp up the flavor in food. Always taste your food first before adding salt. It may not need a flavor enhancer.

When grocery shopping, look for labels that state "low sodium," "reduced sodium," or "no salt added." Then check out the Nutrition Facts label to determine how much sodium is in the food.

Individuals who have not been told otherwise by their doctor or dietitian should limit their sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which are the Tolerable Upper Intake Level and the amount in 1 teaspoon of salt. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for sodium for adults is 1,500 milligrams.

You may feel that your food is too bland after you start to reduce the amount of salt in your food. However, after a few weeks your taste buds will adapt to prefer foods with less sodium, allowing you to enjoy the true flavor of foods.

Another plus to reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is a decrease in blood pressure. Lowering your blood pressure to a healthy level puts less strain on your kidneys, blood vessels, and heart, reducing your risk of kidney disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.