There are many good reasons to eat a diet that is low in sodium (salt). The biggest reason is to help keep blood pressure controlled–a key to maintaining heart health. If you have diabetes, maintaining normal blood pressure is especially important because high blood pressure compounds your risk of heart disease when you have diabetes. That’s why this month (American Heart Month) we’re challenging you to reduce the sodium in your diet!
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. The goal is reduced to 1,500 mg per day if you are over 50 years old, have diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or kidney disease. The average American eats 3,400 mg of sodium each day! Believe it or not, the salt shaker is not the primary source of sodium in our diets. The majority of sodium we consume is found in the foods we’re eating–and sometimes it can sneak up on you. For example, a slice of bread may have 240 mg of sodium. A 2 ounce portion of lunch meat is usually between 600 and 750 mg of sodium!
If you’re ready to challenge yourself to eat less sodium, never fear; you can change your sodium palate and start enjoying foods with less sodium in just 21 days. You’ll be promoting a healthier heart and will see reduced swelling and bloating more immediately.
- Read food labels for sodium. Check them against the guidelines above. Compare food labels between products and look for the label with the lowest sodium.
- Look for the Heart-Check mark on products to easily identify those that meet the American Heart Association’s guidelines for a low sodium food.
- Know the “Salty Six;” the six common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium: breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soup and sandwiches.
Now here’s your challenge:
Over the course of 3 weeks, you can reduce your sodium intake from everyday foods by following the weekly mini-challenges below. By taking it one step at a time, at the end of 3 weeks, you will have significantly reduced your sodium intake!
Week 1: Reduce your sodium intake from Breads and Rolls + Cold Cuts and Cured Meats
- Look for lower sodium items
- Track your sodium consumption
- Log how much sodium you’ve shaved out of your diet.
Week 2: Reduce your sodium intake from Pizza + Poultry
- If you do eat pizza, make it one with less cheese and meats
- Add veggies to your pizza instead
- Use fresh poultry rather than fried, canned or processed. Take it one step further and compare labels on fresh poultry too.
Week 3: Reduce your sodium intake from Soups + Sandwiches
- One cup of chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 mg of sodium
- Check labels and try lower sodium varieties
- Use lower sodium meats, cheeses and condiments and plenty of vegetables to build healthier sandwiches.
If you decide to take the challenge, keep us informed of how you’re doing! What surprises you along the way? Can you notice a difference in the way you feel? Post a comment below!
You can also participate in the challenge on Facebook!