The debate over sodium: What’s the magic number for salt intake?
Your salt shaker is at the center of a great health debate: A new report challenges the assumption that public efforts to dramatically cut Americans’ sodium intake are even worth it.
It’s true that Americans are eating way too much salt, and it’s not just from shaking a bit of the seasoning on to meals. Sodium is lurking in pre-packaged microwavable meals, fast food and, of course, salty snacks like potato chips. What health experts do agree on is that excessive sodium is an archenemy of your heart health. The average American eats 3,400 milligrams a day — which is about 1 1/2 teaspoons. The government recommends we only eat 2,300 mg a day.
But the new report from the Institute of Medicine says there is no real evidence to suggest that consuming extra-low levels of sodium — below the recommendation outlined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans — actually translates to health benefits.
The 2010 national dietary guidelines for sodium have been suggesting that people ages 51 and older, African Americans or those who have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease, cut back sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.
Following the release of the study, the American Heart Association re-affirmed its recommendation that Americans eat no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
In response to the new report, we checked in with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to find out how to best regulate sodium in our diet.
Here’s what we learned from Marisa Moore, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the academy.
Moore said there is a direct link between increased high blood pressure and sodium intake. On average, the higher your sodium intake, the higher your blood pressure.
Much of the sodium we eat, she said, comes from prepared meals and foods eaten away from home. Our sodium intake can be greatly reduced by eating fresh foods.
Here are Moore’s tips for keeping within the recommended sodium guidelines.
- Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods, and avoid salting food before tasting it.
- Never add salt to the water when cooking pasta, rice and vegetables.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare sodium content of foods such as soups, broths, breads and frozen dinners, and choose the healthiest option.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry and fish, beans and peas, unsalted nuts, eggs and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.
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