To Salt Or Not To Salt: Sodium Recommendations
It’s been a well known thought that too much salt (sodium) is bad for your health. Health experts have claimed for many years now that excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Limits have been researched, set, reevaluated and reset all aiming to reduce the overall daily intake of this troublesome nutrient. Americans have been given a sodium “allowance” if you will, of 2,300 mg of sodium a day. That’s just one measly teaspoon of salt – for the whole day.
Apparently, to some health advisors, like those from the American Heart Association, 2,300 mg of sodium is too high of a restriction. That a more aggressive limit is needed to make a difference in the health outcomes of our nation. The newly suggested maximum intake is a meager 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Around 1/3 of a teaspoon of salt. This has spurred a lot of discussion. Especially recently when the Institutes Of Medicine issued a report stating that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence supporting this new aggressive sodium restriction. That there wasn’t that much more of a benefit to this extreme restriction compared to the old 2,300 mg standard.
In addition to rubbing a variety of health experts the wrong way, this new information questions the need for increased restriction on our sodium intake. Is 2,300 mg too high? Is 1,500 way too strict? How should Americans react and change their eating habits? Well…most Americans could do with a sodium cut. We eat close to 4,000 mg of sodium daily – almost twice the higher limit! Most of this excess salt is found in breads, cereals, processed foods, fast food and restaurant meals. All of which, regardless of the sodium content, usually contain a variety of other not-so-good ingredients. Things that definitely wouldn’t kill us to reduce in our diets.
But as far as the salt restriction to follow? In my opinion, I think that you should definitely try to follow the 2,300 mg rule. If you are salt sensitive or have any chronic disease (like high blood pressure) that could worsen from increased sodium, keeping your intake around 1,500 mg may be a good idea. But don’t go too low – you actually need some sodium in your diet for optimal health. Just not tons.
In addition to watching your sodium (check out my post on 17 ways to reduce your salt intake!), it’s equally important to make sure to do the following:
- Be physically active at least 3-4 times weekly
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol intake
- Try to maintain a healthy weight for your age, height and gender
- Limit your intake of processed foods
- Focus on consuming a lot vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and low fat dairy products
Aiming for these items will not only help manage some chronic diseases like high blood pressure, but also keep you healthy overall. And that’s always a good thing, right?