Why You Should Monitor Your Sodium Intake

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Why You Should Monitor Your Sodium Intake

Store-bought foods are notorious for being processed and packed with additives and artificial flavors. While many of us are aware of the dangers of trans fats, you may be surprised to learn you can experience negative health effects due to too much of one very natural substance: sodium.

Sodium, most commonly found in table salt which is a mixture of sodium and chloride, is a necessary part of the human diet and in the right amounts, it can be beneficial to include sodium in your diet. In fact, humans need sodium to carry out important bodily functions such as transmitting nerve impulses, contracting muscle fibers, and maintaining proper ratios of fluid.

Too much sodium, on the other hand, can have dangerous effects on your body and cause unprecedented issues you may not expect. The American Heart Association states that nine out of ten Americans have too much sodium in their diets. This excess amount of the substance can put people at risk for headaches, heart failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and even stomach disease. Too much sodium can directly cause water retention that leads to weight gain and puffiness.

When following a well-balanced diet, watching your sodium intake is a necessary precaution. However, it is not always easy to immediately identify the sources of your excess sodium. For example, it is estimated that more than 70% of Americans’ sodium intake comes from processed foods and at restaurants. This means that Americans aren’t simply reaching for the saltshaker too many times at the dinner table. Instead, the problem amounts of sodium already exist in a large percentage of our foods before we even think about adding salt to our dishes.

As you choose foods for you and your family, be sure you are choosing the healthiest, low-sodium options. This means including lots of fruits and vegetables and making sure you have a good variety of them. When snacking, instead of reaching for potato chips, opt for salt-free nuts instead to get rid of your snacking craving. Using fresh ingredients that have not been processed will help you cut out the hidden sodium culprits in your diet.

While 15% of sodium in the American diet is naturally occurring, it is all too easy to walk down the grocery store aisles and fill your cart with sodium-laden foods that have been heavily processed. Stick to the outer perimeter of the store, which typically means the produce section and protein section. Avoiding the inner aisles that typically contain sodium-heavy foods like potato chips, frozen meals, and canned vegetables and sauces, you will bypass many of the most sodium-rich foods.

Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day in your diet, compared to the 3,400 milligrams that the average American consumes on a daily basis. It will take time to adjust to a new diet and regularly avoid sodium dense food.

The payoff of a low-sodium diet will be worth it. By monitoring your diet closely, you may reduce your risk of osteoporosis and stroke among many other health benefits.

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