“Good things come in small packages” is a commonly used reminder to not overlook something that may be small in size. But despite it’s good taste in a small package, salt should remain overlooked when it comes to mealtime, simply because of its high levels of sodium.
Kidneys maintain the right amount of sodium in the body. It’s a task of great importance because sodium helps transmit nerve impulses, influences contraction and relaxation of muscles and maintains the necessary amount of fluids in the body. When there is too little sodium in the body, the kidneys hold on to it so the aforementioned tasks can be accomplished.
But when your sodium levels increase, the kidneys eliminate the excess through urine. If too much sodium is consumed on a regular basis and the kidneys can’t excrete all the excess sodium, a domino effect begins, wreaking havoc through your body. When excess sodium isn’t excreted, it accumulates in the blood, and since sodium retains water, the blood volume increases. Increased blood volume causes the heart to work harder, which increases pressure in the arteries. Over long periods of time those effects can lead to congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease and stroke.
But cutting down on sodium doesn't mean cutting out flavor. We talked to dietitian Leah Kaufman about simple ways to cut down your salt intake. Utilize these simple tips before you become another statistic.
- Always ask for the sauce on the side: For example, 1 tablespoon of Teriyaki sauce contains 1/3 of the daily recommended amount (1 tsp of salt). One portion of Chinese takeout often has over five times this amount
- Stay away from frozen meals: One Lean Cuisine has about 500 mg of sodium (about 1/3 of the daily recommended amount)
- Limit the amount you pour out from the salt shaker: Try pouring some out into your hand or a spoon first and then placing on your food to actually see the amount you are adding before you eat
- Use herbs more and salt less: Try seasoning with natural herbs instead of salt to increase flavor and decrease sodium intake
- Choose foods with potassium: It counters the effects of sodium and may help with blood pressure