"Just Say Moderate"
Submitted by Kent Hughes
Sodium is unique in that humans have a greater appetite for salt than other nutrients. Our bodies contain about .2 percent sodium, but it is essential for our bodies to function. Sodium plays a role in the regulation of fluids, blood pressure, and the rhythmic maintenance of the heart. An RDA for sodium has not been set, but the general consensus is that 500 mg will meet the body's daily sodium needs. (One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.) Most of us consume between 2,300 mg and 6,900 mg of sodium per day. Is there a danger in consuming not enough sodium? Most people get more than enough because it is abundant in our food supply and because people are generous with the salt shaker. Ten percent of the salt we eat occurs naturally in the foods such as dairy products, fruits, meats, and grains. Fifteen percent is added during cooking and at the table, and 75% comes from processed foods.
Today, consumers are concerned about salt because of the suggested link to high blood pressure. A build up of sodium in the body can cause water retention. The result is an edema (swelling) or hypertension (high blood pressure), which puts a strain on the heart to pump an extra amount of blood.
If you want or need to reduce, or cut down on sodium intake, here are some tips to get you started: (1) limit high-sodium processed foods such as luncheon meats, chips, hot dogs, and canned soups; (2) experiment with flavors of fresh herbs and spices; (3) eat more fruits and vegetables; (4) avoid seasoned salts such as onion, garlic, and celery salt; (5) read labels; (6) at restaurants ask to have food prepared without salt.
Your tastebuds will have a greater appreciation for the natural flavor of the food. As with all nutrients, sodium is essential, but go easy. Moderation is the key to a healthy life style.
Faculty/Staff Bulletin--March 19, 1998