salt consumption

Summary: We all know that too much salt is bad for us. Learn about the alternative options to flavor your food, and about the best ways to control your salt, sodium intake.

What is the connection between salt and sodium?

Salt makes our food taste good. We have heard this statement often enough in the past but today we might want to reconsider how much salt consumption does good for us. And anyway, what is the connection between salt and sodium? Well, Sodium Chloride (Salt) contains 60% chloride and 40% sodium. Our body needs a very small amount of salt on a daily basis, that is to help to coordinate our muscles and nerve movements. Sodium also helps to balance our water retention and with a healthy kidney excess sodium can be flushed out. When our sodium levels are too high, it might lead to various diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

The recommended daily Sodium intake:

A healthy adult needs about 1,500mg sodium per day and the amount should not go over 2,300mg per day. 1,500mg sodium equals to about 0,75 teaspoon or about 3,7gram of salt. You might think that it is easy to measure this and keep your salt intake under check but in reality there are lots of food items with “hidden” salt content in them. This is why I find it important to emphasize, eat fresh and unprocessed food as often as possible. Eating out in restaurants is part of our social (often work life) and we might not be able to avoid it altogether , however try to find a healthy balance and prepare your daily meals as much as possible at home.

salt consumption

What food item contains typically high amounts of salt, sodium?

The simple and short answer: mostly the processed and prepackaged foods. Here is a list of the most frequent items:

  • Chips, crisps and salted nuts
  • Canned food such as processed meats and soups
  • Frozen dinners
  • Cured meats (very sad to see this item on the list as I love cure meats…)
  • Cheeses including cream cheese
  • Condiments  such as mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise
  • Sauces, such as soy sauce, barbecue,  peanut sauce…etc.
  • Seasoned salts
  • Pickles (there goes another favorite! But…instead of eating store-bought pickles, you can learn how to make a few different versions and there you can safeguard what goes in to the pickle jars.)
  • Olives

What are the alternative options for seasoning your food?

  • Eat raw vegetables and fruit as often as possible
  • Learn to use various spices and herbs in your cooking instead of just dousing it with salt.
  • Cook with lean, skinless meat without various sauces,
  • Eat fish, and tuna canned in water (not the oily version).
  • Eat healthy, natural snacks and only unsalted nuts.
  • Use vinegar, healthy oils, lemon juice, various nuts and beans on your salads.
  • Avoid canned foods all together (not only high in sodium but also contains lots of preservatives)

How to manage salt consumption when eating out?

  • It is always more difficult to control ingredients when you eat out. First of all, eat in restaurants where the menu and the overall look of the restaurant reflect a healthy image.
  • Avoid fast food restaurants and big canteen style eateries.
  • Order fresh salads and fruit plates whenever it is available and order your dressings on the side.
  • Avoid heavy and complicated dressings, stick to oil, vinegar, lemon juice…etc. Here is a lovely recipe to try:Sencha Soy vinaigrette (instead of using low sodium version of soy sauce, just dilute the regular soy sauce with some water. Why? read what is added to low sodium soy sauce here: Chemicals in low sodium soy sauce )
  • Don’t order slow cooked food

Sodium loss through sweating during exercise:

In general if you exercise, you sweat and if you sweat, you loose sodium. On average you loose about 500 mg sodium depending on the type and intensity of exercise you do. This amount can actually vary between 220-1,100 mg. If you are regularly exercising, it is important that you replenish the sodium that you loose while for athletes with really active exercise schedule it is downright vital to do so.

How to check your sodium levels?

Through a blood test at your local clinic is the best way to go. Various tests can be done to check your water and electrolyte balance, and also to check your kidney and adrenal gland functions. Doing these tests will help you to understand if your sodium levels are healthy, and if not, what may causes the problems.