Many people are unaware of how much sodium is in their diet.  Just because you are not sprinkling salt on every dish does not mean your sodium intake isn’t over a healthy level.  Many processed and prepackaged foods contain high amounts of sodium so your levels may be high even if you never use the shaker. 

Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it helps in a variety of ways including maintaining the right balance of fluids in your body, assisting in transmitting nerve impulses and influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.  Our kidneys help us maintain healthy sodium levels but can sometimes get overloaded, leading to health problems.

The RDA for sodium is less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  The average American gets about 3,400 mg of sodium a day — much more than recommended.  Too much sodium can lead to fluid retention and increased blood pressure.  If this becomes chronic, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure.

The vast majority of sodium in the typical American diet comes from foods that are processed and prepared because they are high in salt and additives containing sodium.  Processed foods like bread, prepared dinners like pasta, meat and egg dishes, pizza, cold cuts and bacon, cheese, soups, and fast foods are all loaded with sodium.

Some foods naturally contain sodium including all vegetables and dairy products, meat, and shellfish. One cup of milk contains 100 mg of sodium.  While these foods don’t have an abundance of sodium, eating them contributes to your overall sodium intake so topping that with a diet of processed foods will surely give anyone a sodium overload.   Condiments also contain sodium. Just one tablespoon of soy sauce, for example, has about 1,000 mg of sodium!

Paying attention to your sodium intake is an easy process though.  Eating more fresh foods over processed, purchasing low sodium products, omitting salt from recipes whenever possible and using salt substitutes are a few ways to cut down.  Other ways include limiting your intake of condiments such as soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish which all contain sodium.