Adventures in Sodium

Have you ever had a great meal in a restaurant one night only to wake up the next morning and notice your fingers are swollen?  Maybe you can’t take your ring(s) off, or put your ring(s) on your fingers?  That could be the effects of the overabundance of sodium in the food you ate the night before.  Restaurants are notorious for adding unnecessary salt to their food just to make it taste better.

Living in New York City and going out to eat or getting take-out is practically second nature.  But the truth is, the salty taste is an acquired taste and the more we eat it, the more our body desires more.  We therefore find ourselves adding extra table salt to our foods and it’s a downward spiral from there.

Sodium shows up naturally in many foods, like dairy.  It is necessary to have sodium in our diets because it aids in the movement of fluids in and out of the cells in the body, helps muscles to relax, transmits nerve impulses and regulates blood pressure.  When unnecessary sodium is added to our foods, there is a problem.  Processed foods, and food made in restaurants have an abundance of added salt.  Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke or kidney disease.  Healthy people with good functioning kidneys will excrete excess sodium but should pay attention to the amount they eat, regardless.

A healthy person should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.  A person with high blood pressure should eat about 1,500 mg per day.  About 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt is about 500 mg of sodium.  If you happen to go over your daily intake of sodium, it’s good to counteract with foods rich in potassium like bananas or kale (but if you make a kale salad don’t add salt :-)).  My grandmother always told me to eat a banana after one of my childhood “overindulgences” in potato chips.  Alternatively, a teacher in college advised me to eat two bananas if I wake up with a “charlie-horse” or calf-muscle cramp.  This could mean that there’s an imbalance in the sodium/potassium ratio in the muscles.

Here are a few ideas to get your sodium intake under control:

  • Start becoming more aware of your sodium intake.
  • Read the nutrition facts on the packaging of your food and stay under 1,500 mg of sodium if you have high blood pressure and under 2,300 mg of sodium per day if you’re a healthy person.
  • Make an effort to cook at home so you can control the amount of salt added to your food.
  • Add garlic and herbs to substitute flavor rather than salt to your cooking.

When you stop adding extra salt to your food, you will start tasting the natural flavors in food and begin to appreciate them more.  Watching your sodium intake could be a baby-step to a healthy habit.  Your body will thank you.

Do a little experiment and watch your sodium intake today.  The results may surprise you.

Hope you all have a great day! 🙂

One thought on “Adventures in Sodium

  1. I can’t believe I missed this post! I don’t add salt to my cooking since I kicked the habit a couple of years ago. But as soon as I eat out, I do feel swollen the next day. Great tip about the potassium 🙂

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