The words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Sodium is a mineral and one of the chemical elements found in salt. Salt (also known by its chemical name, sodium chloride) is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature and is used to flavor and preserve food. Sodium is an essential nutrient and is needed by the human body in relatively small amounts (provided that substantial sweating does not occur). Sodium is important for many body processes, such as fluid balance, muscle contraction, and nervous system function. As a food ingredient, sodium has multiple uses, such as for curing meat, baking, thickening, retaining moisture, enhancing flavor (including the flavor of other ingredients), and as a preservative.
The American Heart Association recommends that a normal diet contain no more than 1500 mg of sodium. You will be surprised when you look at labels some of the sodium contents of some of your favorite foods. Remember, those numbers are per serving. Look at the serving size and then calculate based on how much you normally eat of that food. About 75% of dietary sodium comes from eating packaged and restaurant foods, whereas only a small portion (11%) comes from salt added to food when cooking or eating.
These six popular foods can add high levels of sodium to your diet. Let me introduce you to “The Salty Six”:
1. Breads and Rolls
2. Cold Cuts & Cured Meats 3. Sandwiches (including fast food hamburgers)
6. Chicken (especially prepared dishes)
Other foods that are high on the list include cheese, mixed meat dishes (such as beef stew, chili, meat loaf), mixed pasta dishes, and savory snacks such as chips, crackers, popcorn and pretzels.
Source: fda.gov/nutrition education; Heart.org
Try keeping a food diary for a week and see where you stand with sodium. Sodium can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Sodium is a nutrient to get less of! Let me know if I can help in any way.
Your Parish Nurse,
Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN