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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Sneaky Sodium: Why You Consume More Salt Than You Think

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Salt Mill
Not many people actually know how much salt they are supposed to eat each day, or how much they’re getting from the foods that they eat. It’s almost impossible to tell, and the stats prove this!

The recommendation for sodium intake is 2400 mg per day, which is equal to about one teaspoon of salt. Recommendations are aiming to be changed to 1500 calories for even better heart health. How much do we as Americans eat? The average sodium consumption is 4000 mg per day. That’s nearly three pounds of salt per year!

This increase in sodium consumption is thought to have contributed to chronic problems in the population such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, all of which can eventually lead to death.

Where does sodium come from?

You may be surprised to hear that, for the most part, your sodium intake is not from the salt shaker on your table. Even if you never pick it up, you’re probably still eating too much sodium. In fact, the majority of sodium comes from eating prepared or processed foods. These may include some of your favorite frozen appetizers and meals, canned soups, processed deli meats, and more.

It is important to recognize the amounts of table salt, sauces, and condiments such as ketchup, mustard, salsa, and soy sauce that you add to foods during and after cooking. Salt and condiments you add can help enhance the flavor of your food, but adding those few extra dashes to your meals can quickly add up!

The number one contributor of rising sodium intake is eating out. Restaurants are known for adding substantial amounts of salts to meals, some up to 6000 mg. That’s almost three days worth of salt!  Before you go out, visit a restaurant’s website to learn the sodium content of your favorite dishes.

Be Salt Savvy

To reduce salt intake, use fresh vegetables and fruits over canned or processed versions, and cook foods using spices and herbs rather than using additional salt. Use pure olive oil and vinegar for salad dressings.

Many products come in unsalted versions, and lots of food manufacturers now offering low sodium products that still taste great! If the taste isn’t what you’re hoping for, experiment by adding your own spices—just avoid salt.

Sodium can be hard to manage but with these simple suggestions you’ll be able to make a drastic change in your sodium intake for a better heart and better health!

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Tags: Healthy Eating , Nutrition , Restaurant Nutrition

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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