Salt shakers are a staple of most American households, and most of us don’t think twice about using them when enjoying a meal with loved ones. Although salt may seem harmless, did you know that high levels of sodium can have significant adverse effects on your health? Fortunately, tracking your sodium intake can help you enjoy salt in moderation and optimize your health.
Facts about Salt Intake
According to the CDC, about 90% of Americans older than two consume more sodium than the recommended amount. In fact, the average amount of sodium that Americans ingest every day is 3,400mg, over 1000 more than the daily recommendation of 2,300mg.
Having too much sodium can:
- Reduce kidney function
- Increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
- Enhance your thirst
- Raise your blood pressure
- Elevate your risk of gastric cancer
How to Track Salt Intake
In a society where processed foods and eating out is the norm, it can be challenging to moderate our sodium intake, as over 70% of the salt we consume is from processed and restaurant foods. Fortunately, here are some quick and easy ways to monitor our sodium intake to ensure that we have a healthy amount of salt in our diet:
Use a Nutrition Tracker
The most efficient way to monitor how much salt you’re consuming is to track your food. Many people do not record their food because they believe that it’s a substantial time commitment, but studies have shown that it only takes about 15 minutes each day. There are multiple apps on iOS and Android devices that can help users keep track of their salt intake. Among the most popular ones include:
- Lost It! – Calorie Counter
- My Diet Coach – Weight Loss
- MyPlate Calorie Counter
These apps are completely free to download, and some even come with barcode scanners that enable you to instantly discover the sodium content of food items. If you are not interested in using a mobile app, you can also keep a food journal to monitor your salt intake.
Read Food Labels
When grocery shopping, it’s essential to read the food labels of products you’re planning to buy and compare their sodium levels to similar products. Many products nowadays have low-sodium options; however, their labels may be written in a few different ways. Here are some tips on what each of the labels mean:
- Sodium free: a trivial amount of sodium per serving
- Very low sodium: 35 mg or less per serving
- Low sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
- Reduced sodium: products where the level of sodium is reduced by 25%
- Light or lite sodium: products where the level of sodium is reduced by at least 50%
Usually, if salt is one of the top ingredients in a product, then it is likely too high in sodium. It is also crucial to check the serving size on the nutrition labels as some sodium levels may appear lower than they really are.
Avoid Processed Foods
Another helpful way to ensure that you’re keeping your salt intake below the daily recommended value is to limit your consumption of processed, canned, and frozen foods, such as:
- Canned soups
- Deli meats
- Canned vegetables
- Frozen dinners
- Cured foods
- Fast foods
Instead, you should opt for whole, unprocessed foods and make meals with fresh ingredients. It can also help to use alternatives to salt when cooking, such as spices like basil, cilantro, ginger, curry, sage, thyme, or rosemary.
Contact Summit Medical Clinic
At Summit Medical Clinic, we specialize in primary and nephrology care. If you are concerned with your salt intake and are at an elevated risk for developing high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or other chronic illnesses, contact us today. Our skilled physicians can provide preventative and diagnostic care to ensure that you are following a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.