According to the America Heart Association it is estimated 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure or HTN (Hypertension). The guidelines currently are defined as a reading of 130/80 or above. It is important to know your blood pressure level. HTN has been called the silent killer because many people with HTN, don’t know they have it. So, make sure to get your blood pressure checked!
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium a day and possibly less, 1500mg per day for adults with HTN.
However, it is estimated the average American diet contains 3400mg of sodium a day. Which isn’t hard to believe. Here is how sodium can add up fast!
- Breakfast: Everything bagel with cream cheese (460mg)
- Lunch: Lunch meat sandwich (800mg), add a pickle spear (362mg) and small bag of chips (170mg)
- Dinner: 2 slices of cheese pizza (1620mg) and side salad with 2 Tbsp dressing (300mg)
- Total for day: approximately 3712mg
Cutting back by just 1000mg of sodium a day can help! How do you get started decreasing your sodium intake?
First, be aware where sodium is coming from in your diet. The CDC says the top sources of sodium we eat comes from these 10 foods; breads and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and cured meats, soups, burritos and tacos, savory snacks (like chips, popcorn, pretzels, crackers), chicken (includes processed), cheese and eggs and omelets.
Second, start looking at the nutritional facts on ALL the foods you eat. It can be quite shocking!
While it is hard to add up all the sodium we eat in a day, focus on avoiding very high sodium foods and incorporating more unprocessed whole foods into your diet.
Also, try not adding table salt to your food, 1 tsp of table salt contains 2325mg of sodium, which is all the sodium you need in a whole day, and sodium is already in many foods we eat. In fact, most of the sodium we get isn’t from the salt shaker these days, it is from processed foods, packaged foods, and restaurant foods (meaning it is already in the food when we buy it).
A couple things to keep in mind for label reading:
- Food package claims may be misleading, so always look at the nutritional facts when choosing a food that has been processed in some way.
- Look for “Salt-free”, sodium-free”, “very low sodium,” and “low sodium” which have less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.
- Be careful with products that say: “Unsalted,” “No Salt Added,” “Reduced Sodium,” or “Lower Sodium.” These items may be low or may be high in sodium.
- When foods start containing 300-400mg of sodium per serving, start thinking “How much of my meal is this making up?” If it is not making up about half your meal, then it is likely too much!
Here are some ideas to incorporate into your diet to decrease your sodium intake.
Fruits and Vegetables: Aim for fresh or frozen, if buying canned opt for the low sodium version, also rinse them off (this helps to get off some of the sodium).
Meats: Aim for fresh or frozen unprocessed meats most of the time and season/prepare it yourself! I like using the low sodium tuna and chicken packs for when convenience is needed. Behind the counter at the deli they will often carry a “low sodium” turkey for sandwiches.
Diary: Milk and yogurt tend to be low in sodium. Swiss cheese, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese will have less sodium typically than your cheddar, American or colby cheeses. Processed cheeses will typically be higher in sodium too.
Grains: Most grains are fine, if sodium isn’t added. Bread and rolls tend to make up a lot of sodium in the American diet, but that is because we eat these several times a day. Check labels at the store and choose a lower sodium bread if you tend to eat it several times a day (ranges typically between 100-200mg per slice). Pasta, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, grits and other grains not processed are all fine. Avoid those instant rice or noodle blends with the seasoning in the box or packet. Opt for low sodium versions or salt free versions of crackers, pretzels or chips.
Adding flavor to your food: Try vinegar (red wine or balsamic are my favorites), lemon and lime juice, fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley or dry spices/herbs like garlic powder and rosemary (I love adding these to my chicken or potatoes before roasting). Also, if making tacos, make your own taco seasoning or buy a salt free one like Mrs. Dash.
Here is a sodium Free Spice Blend from Eatright.org you can add to your meat or veggies for flavor!
Spice Blend Recipe (makes about ⅓ cup)
- • 5 teaspoons onion powder
- • 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
- • 2½ teaspoons paprika
- • 2½ teaspoon dry mustard
- • 1½ teaspoon crushed thyme leaves
- • ½ teaspoon white pepper
- • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
Looking for more sodium appropriate recipes?
Check out the American Heart Association website for free recipes at http://recipes.heart.org/