Salt: Do you know how much is too much?


Sodium is an essential nutrient, but most of us get far more of it each day than we need.  Why should we be more mindful of our sodium intake? Because high sodium diets can raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and reducing sodium can lower the risk of these deadly diseases.

The American Heart Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as well as my colleagues and I at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health recommend that everyone cut back their sodium intake to 1500 milligrams of sodium per day.  Nearly 70 percent of adult Americans are at especially high risk of health problems from salt.

Tips for decreasing your sodium intake:

•    Cut back on processed foods: frozen meals, soups, condiments, cheese, bread, chips.
•    Be especially mindful of foods you order in restaurants: some appetizers and entrees contain more than a day’s worth of sodium.
•    Replace salt with other spices and flavorings. Find fifteen flavorful alternatives in my Sodium Makeover for Your Pantry.
•    Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium.
•    Know which foods are high in sodium so you can prioritize your efforts to cut back. Read Top 10 Sources of Sodium and Tasty Tricks to Avoid Them.
•    Compare your choices when shopping. Sodium levels vary widely for the same or similar grocery items.

Photo used under creative commons from Larryhj1234