If you eat too much salt or sodium in your diet, then you may develop some health conditions. You should know what foods high in sodium and how to avoid salt in your diet.
High Sodium Intake & Health Conditions
The sodium level in our body is mainly regulated by our kidneys. Too much sodium can cause many health conditions as given below.
- high blood pressure. "Of the estimated one billion people living with hypertension, about 30% can attribute it to excess salt intake," says Dr. Ken Flegel and Dr. Peter Magner.
- Heart failure
- Kidney problems and kidney stones symptoms
- Gastric cancer
- Left ventricular hypertrophy
- Osteoporosis: A high level of salt intake increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. This may lead to osteoporosis.
Muscle cramps do not need salt but water. Muscle cramps are due to lack of adequate amount of water or dehydration in your body.
A reduction in salt consumption even by 1g in diet daily may help decrease the incidences of death, say University of California-San Francisco researchers at the American Heart Association's 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. The researchers say that a 3g a day reduction in salt intake could result in 6% fewer cases of new heart disease, 8% fewer heart attacks, and 3% fewer deaths in US.
High Sodium Foods
Many foods naturally contain only traces of sodium, while processed foods contain a lot of salt. Foods with a high sodium content (more than 900mg/serving) include:
- Most fast foods and take away foods, such as pizza and cheeseburger.
- Most snack foods, such as potato chips, pretzels and corn chips.
- Processed meats, such as sausages (900-1000mg sodium/100g), bacon (about 2000mg sodium/100g, ham, salami, hot dog, smoked salmon, corned meats (1000-1600mg sodium/100g), and luncheon meats. Note that most fresh meats are low in sodium, 60-90mg sodium/100g.
- Canned vegetables and canned vegetable juice
- Dehydrated or packet foods, such as instant pasta or soups
- Soups, sauces and condiments such as soy sauce and tomato sauce, ketchup and most processed tomato products.
Soups are one of the worst culprits for hidden salt. People who regularly eat soup could be raising their risk of stomach cancer, warns Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
- Cracker biscuits, breads and breakfast cereals. Two slices of most breads have 250 to 480mg sodium. An average serving of breakfast cereal can have up to 500mg of sodium. Look for low sodium variety of breads and cereals. In India, some salt is added to the flour when making the dough for rotis or chapattis. This adds extra salt to your body and can be avoided.
- Salted nuts are high in salt but if you rub the nuts with fingers, then most of the salt falls off.
- Salted butter, margarine and mayonnaise. Salted butter and margarine have about 140mg in one tablespoon.
- A bowl of cornflakes has about the same amount of salt as a small packet of plain chips.
How to reduce the sodium intake in diet?
How do you know if you are getting too much sodium?
"If you eat fast food even once a week, you are probably eating 2 to 3 times as much salt as you need," says Jill Minette, R.D., assistant director of clinical nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
- Check nutritional information on food labels before you buy a product. Look for the amount of salt (sodium, Na), monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda or soda (sodium bicarbonate), baking powder, sodium benzoate, sodium sulfite, sodium nitrite, etc. present in the product. Understand the meaning of the label:
Low sodium/salt: Less than 120mg sodium/100g of food or not more than half the sodium content of the regular food (whichever is less).
Reduced sodium/salt: Up to 75% of the sodium content of the regular food.
Lightly salted: At least 90mg sodium/100g of food less than regular food and less than 600mg of sodium/100g.
- Do not keep salt shaker on the dining table.
- Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks, rather than salty snack foods.
- Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts or of reduced salt variety. There are many products available with reduced levels of salt or with no added salt.
- Select unsalted nuts or seeds.
- Eat less salty foods like chips, pretzels, crisps, salted nuts, salty cheeses, soy sauce, pickles, Bikaneri bhujia, ham, bacon, chicken broth, processed meat and fish.
- Buy fresh, (plain) frozen or canned vegetables without added salt. Rinse canned vegetables to eliminate some of the added salt.
- Select unsalted, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
- Select fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese with low sodium.
- Add spices, herb, garlic and lemon juice in cooking instead of salt to enhance the taste and flavor of your food. Use only half the amount of salt recommended in a recipe.
- Reduce eating pickles, they are high in salt.
- Buy ready to eat meals with reduced salt. Do not buy packaged foods that contain more than 120mg of sodium per serving.
- Avoid using sauces, such as mayonnaise and ketchup, as these are often high in salt.
- Choose fresh or frozen fish, shellfish, poultry and meat most often. They are lower in salt than most canned and processed options.
- Some drugs contain high amounts of sodium. Look for it.