Take Control – Reduce Sodium Intake

— Written By Virginia Lopez and last updated by

Hello Everyone! This month I would like to share information on sodium. Sodium is a mineral that is an essential nutrient and electrolyte in the body; our bodies need it for muscle contractions and nerve function. It can be found naturally in some foods; however, the problem is many of us over consume it when we choose foods that are high in sodium.

Where do you think most of the sodium consumed comes from? If you said processed foods and restaurants, you are correct! 77% to be exact, 12% comes from our salt shaker (not too bad), and 11% is naturally found in some foods. Why is it important we control our sodium intake? Sodium increases our blood pressure by holding on to excess fluid in the body. This creates an added burden on the heart which may lead to chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

The American Heart Association recommends we limit our sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day and 1,500 mg a day for those with high blood pressure. A normal blood pressure range is 120/80 mm Hg. What can you do to help take control of sodium intake? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Eat less processed food – many processed and packaged foods are high in sodium
    • Examples: deli meats, frozen meals, cheese products, condiments, canned soups, spaghetti sauce, bread, rolls, chips, and crackers
  • Check the nutrition fact label to determine if a food is high in sodium
    • The amount of sodium is listed on the label in milligrams, remember 2300 mg is the recommended limit amount per day
    • Look at the Percent Daily Value for sodium on the label, if it lists 20% or more, it is considered high in sodium
  • Eat out less – but when you do eat out, ask that the condiments and salad dressings be put on the side or request that food not be cooked with salt
  • Prepare more meals at home and limit the table salt you add to your food
  • Season with spices and seasoning blends that do not have sodium

Other factors you can control to help keep your blood pressure in check:

  • Increase physical activity – even light intensity exercise can reduce blood pressure in individuals who are not currently active
  • Achieve or maintain a healthy weight – losing just a few pounds can lower your blood pressure
  • Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat protein
  • Reduce alcohol intake

Controlling your sodium intake is an added benefit to a healthier you. Combine all the benefits I’ve shared throughout the months and you are definitely on your way to a having the quality health you deserve.

He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.
Benjamin Franklin

This information is provided by the SNAP-Ed Steps to Health – Take Control Program and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.