Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sodium. How Much Is Too Much?

Salt. I used to add it to almost everything. Then I started to cook at home more and use less salt and sure enough, my taste buds changed. Now when I go to restaurants, I usually can’t order the soup or anything with sauce. It’s almost always way too salty.

The RDA of sodium for adults is 2400mg. This number should be reduced to 1500mg a day for individuals with high blood pressure, African Americans or anyone over the age of 40.  This sounds reasonable, but how much IS 2400mg of sodium?

One teaspoon of table salt has about 2300mg of Sodium! One teaspoon of soy sauce has about 300mg. How much sodium does Denny’s Lumberjack Slam Breakfast contain? Almost 4500mg of sodium! And that is before most customers add even more salt to the eggs or potatoes. Scary. 1 cup of chicken soup usually has between 850-1200mg of sodium, sometimes more. I guess it should come as no surprise that Americans consume on average over 3400mg a day.

What can you do?

Read labels and compare products. It seems logical that if you are buying something, let’s say Ricotta cheese, that most of the brands will have about the same amount of sodium, right? Nope. Safeway’s Ricotta cheese has more than double the amount of sodium as Sargento’s Ricotta cheese! I was surprised, so I started to pay more attention to the sodium content for the same food made by different brands. What I found was that the amount of sodium varied dramatically.

I encourage my clients to stay away from frozen meals because of the long ingredient lists, preservatives and high sodium content. Here is an example of taking in over 2 days of sodium in one meal. Swanson’s Hungry Man Turkey Dinner has over 5400mg of sodium!

The best bet if you want to reduce your sodium intake is to cook meals at home and stay away from packaged foods and restaurant made meals. When grocery shopping, check labels and always compare products.

Sodium in moderate amounts is fine, but what most Americans consider “normal” or “moderate” is usually around 3400mg of sodium a day. Wow! Not only is that well above the RDA, it is almost 3 times what the American Heart Association recommends on their website.

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