Let’s Talk Sodium!

While vacationing in the mountains, my husband and I somehow began discussing sodium content in foods. He asked a question that I am sure many people want the answer to…”How much sodium do we really need?”

Well, let’s back up a bit.

We went to the local supermarket (about 25-30 minutes away from the mountain) to gather fixins for quick meals. Who wants to go on vacation and still have to melt over a hot stove three times a day? Not me!

As we gathered our fixins, we decided to get 2 microwaveable meals for quick lunches. We both focused on different things as we silently read the back of the boxes of frozen delights. Because of my diagnosis of hypertension, I always focus on sodium content as my body does react to negatively when I eat large amounts of sodium. I have learned the hard way that frozen meals have traditionally had a high amount of sodium. The meals that we chose had about 750 mg of sodium, which isn’t bad for frozen.

So, we dove into the sodium conversation. Most foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, have some amount of sodium naturally. The average daily amount of sodium recommended is a little less than 1 teaspoon, which is about 1,500 mg, up to 2,300 mg. The average (single-serve) frozen meal contains more than that…in one meal. It’s no wonder hypertension, stroke, and heart disease are on the rise. Even some of the “healthy” options had over 1,000 mg of sodium. Add to that the other 3 meals of the day, snacks, drinks. Making the best choices can still provide you with twice as much sodium than what you need.





 

According to AARP, the average diet consists of over 3,000 mg of sodium.  It’s worth reading this entire article for great insight into the dietary sodium debate.

As this article (and our conversation) begins with a discussion of frozen foods, it’s also important to remember that other convenience foods are laden with sodium as well. Flavored drinks, salad dressings, condiments such as barbecue sauce, and especially canned soups, sauces, and broths are typically FULL of sodium. I won’t even begin to delve into the amount of sodium in fast foods or table salt added to already salty foods.

Why is sodium added to foods, you may ask? Well, sodium is often used as a preservative, flavor enhancer, used during baking, and for curing meat.

Now, we have to remember that sodium is necessary for proper body functions and to maintain electrolyte balance. However, approximately 500-600 mg of sodium is the minimum amount of sodium needed for the basic functioning of the body. Again, this is the basic amounts needed for human functioning. As a relatively healthy, active adult, I need more than the minimum and I fight to stay somewhere near 1,000-1,500 mg range. And believe me, it’s a tough fight.

With that said, talk to your doctor and see what’s recommended for you. Read the labels of any convenience food to see if there is hidden sodium. Beware of convenience sodium intake and take control of your diet.

The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.

Resources:
Personal knowledge
heart.org
cdc.gov
aarp.org

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