Makeba Giles, of Melisa Source, is joining the Sodium Blog as a Guest Blogger today.
Even if you’re like me and prepare foods with very little or no salt and never reach for the salt shaker while dining out, chances are that you are still probably consuming too much sodium. In fact, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium, on average, daily—more than double the amount that the American Heart Association recommends for ideal heart health.
Sodium is an essential element for life, too much of it can also be harmful for you. Sodium is necessary for our bodies to regulate fluid balance and help our muscle functions, but when the body has too much of it, sodium can have negative effects. Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure which can then lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and stomach cancer.
The problem is there may be high amounts of hidden salt in store-bought processed, prepackaged, and restaurant food which makes it difficult to manage your sodium intake. About ¾ of the sodium in Americans’ diets come from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods.
Pledge to reduce sodium.
This is why the American Heart Association has started the #BreakUpWithSalt pledge. The goal is to create a movement that urges the food industry and policymakers to improve the foods offered in the grocery aisle and on restaurant menus, making positive change for healthier hearts. You too can take control of your health by joining the cause as others have.
According to an independent survey conducted by the American Heart Association in 2013 and 2016, over the past year, nearly half of Americans have tried to reduce sodium and/or sugar in their personal diets, choosing to drink more water and eat more fruits and vegetables instead of eating so much processed food, but as consumers, we should not feel like we can’t eat out favorite processed foods, or eat at our favorite restaurants.
79% of consumers believe the food industry should take action, with an emphasis on wanting the food industry to impose mandatory limits. Over 7/10 consumers want restaurants to reduce sodium in foods and want less sodium in processed foods. Companies should respect the health of consumers; we can’t buy products if we’re unhealthy, but the reality is, this will take time.
What else can you do?
One thing that we as consumers can do while changes are made is really do our homework on lower sodium foods and snacks. I have completely turned over our family pantry from snacks with a lot of sodium like breads and chips to healthier snacks like apples with peanut butter, and unsalted trail mix. I read labels and select the items with lower amounts of sodium per serving.
Of course there are many other ways you can take a stand against excess sodium such as participating in the #GoRedGetFit “Less Salt, More Sweat” challenge which challenges you to get at least 150 minutes physical activity a week while also limiting sodium consumption to 1,500 milligrams per day. This is a great way to limit sodium intake while also getting in shape.
Here are some other ways your family can limit sodium intake:
- Anytime you’re dining out, ask the server about the amount of sodium in the meals.
- Also ask if there’s a separate menu for lower-sodium meal options.
- When you’re shopping for foods to prepare at home, read every nutrition label to check for sodium amounts.
- When preparing meals at home, skip the salt and familiarize yourself with natural herbs and spices for adding flavor to foods.
- Even using other foods, such as citrus fruits for flavor can ensure your home-cooked meals don’t have a lot of added salt.
These steps may seem very simple, but they can play a huge part in living a healthier lifestyle and saving your life.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.