The week of March 11 is Salt Awareness Week, and it may have you thinking about the amount of sodium that you consume each day. If your diet is heavy in pre-packaged and processed foods, you may be eating over 1,000 milligrams more salt than you should be each day. Do you know how much salt you and your family are eating? Read on to find out how you can calculate your sodium intake and cut out unnecessary sources of salt.
How much salt do you eat?
You may not even think about salt unless you are adding it directly to your food, but many foods already have lots of salt in them. Pre-packaged foods may be very high in sodium, so you will want to read labels more often to get an idea of how much salt you eat. Foods that are naturally high in salt include cheese, pickled foods and deli meats. Products you may not expect to contain much sodium like tomato juice, salad dressing and buttermilk can be particularly problematic for your diet.
Why do you crave salt?
Some salt is necessary to help the body absorb water, but too much can quickly cause problems. You might crave salt because you need it in your diet, and as you eat more, you begin to crave it more often. Aging can also boost your salt cravings, because taste buds can become less sensitive to distinctive flavors.
What can you do to reduce your sodium intake?
Eliminating salt from your diet can more difficult in practice than in theory, but there are a few simple strategies that can help you. First, you should try cooking at home more often and re-discover your spice cabinet. Instead of salt, try seasoning foods with herbs, roasted spices and hot chili powder. Citrus juice can be a great seasoning, as it hits your tongue similarly to salt. When you do eat pre-packaged foods, opt for low sodium choices whenever possible and always read the label.
What happens when you eat too much salt?
A high salt intake not only causes short-term discomfort like bloating, but it can be detrimental to your heart health. High-sodium diets are closely linked to hypertension, or high blood pressure, which affects nearly one-third of American adults—some of whom do not even know they have a problem. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, and it can pose a threat to the kidneys and liver as well.