Slashing Sodium: If the FDA is trying, so should you!

Salt is everywhere.  Salt lurks mostly in processed and packaged foods and even though it is “generally recognized as safe” by our very own FDA, there is not as much wrath against salt as there is for it’s evil twin, sugar.  Salt is found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and fish and is also commonly packaged in processed foods such as cheeses, smoked meats, sauces, soups, cereals, condiments, and dressings.  Salt can even be found in unknown suspects like antacids and buffered aspirin, according to Aetna, who warns that these ingredient’s high salt content can interfere with the management of high blood pressure.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, Americans consume more than double the suggested amount of 1,500 mg sodium a day, usually averaging one in a half times or approximately 3,436mg.  We can thank our restaurants and processed foods for giving us a nearly 80% of our sodium intake, says the FDA, who is getting more heat these days to use their power to cut salt use in manufacturing, according to The Ethiopian Review.  You can see the impact of salt in places like China, where despite the overall thinness of the country, cardiovascular disease accounts for 33% of deaths , according to Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD and nutrition committee chairperson of the American Heart Association.  Other consequences from a diet high in sodium include high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, which coincidentally reign as the leading causes of death in the US, according to the CDC.

So while sodium’s main purpose is to preserve and to aid in the fusing of ingredients, reducing the amount of sodium intake can be achievable.  Reading labels and taking note of the daily value of sodium intake are two ways of measuring the intake of sodium.  The FDA defines the daily value percentage as a measure of how high or low the contents of a nutrient in a package.  A balance of the percentage of the sodium utilized and the percentage of sodium allowance remaining is key, according to the FDA.  Other advice come from the Mayo Clinic whose suggestions for lowering salt intake include looking for sodium free or reduced/low sodium labels, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, trying new recipes that do not contain other ingredients that have sodium, and using spices as substitute for table salt.

Sodium plays a major role in maintaining water balance, nerve impulses, and muscle function in your body, according to Colorado State University‘s Extension program, whose goal is to provide research-based knowledge in response to national issues in order to enhance the quality of life.  The image of one teaspoon of salt, which is all you need in a day’s worth, according to this month’s issue of Cooking Light, may be hard to swallow for people who easily surpass that in one sitting.  So while awareness may be the first step in slashing sodium and abstinence may be the most favorable solution, moderation may be the overall key to being able to Have your cake and eat it too.

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