Keeping Sodium Down

April 25, 2017 in Health, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Before leaving for vacation, I left a note for myself upon return to write a few words about the goal to keep sodium under control. While in India, I got an unpleasant reminder of this goal – a kidney stone made itself known (in a most unpleasant fashion.) Why was this a reminder? Because among its other effects, high sodium can increase the incidence of kidney stones. Now I generally eat a fairly low sodium diet, so high sodium not likely the cause this particular stone. But I am still resolved to write on sodium. While kidney stones are not the most prominent effect of a long-running high sodium diet, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and osteoporosis are among the more common problems whose likelihood is increased by too much sodium. All these problems demand serious attention to sodium intake.

Keeping sodium down in the diet is extremely difficult, especially if you eat at restaurants and fast food establishments; eat much processed food; or love the saltshaker. The average American consumes about 3,800 mg of sodium a day. If you have “pre-hypertension” or high blood pressure your doctor will advise that you get down to 1,500 milligrams. Tough if you’re running at the 3800 mg like the average American. Even if you’re young and healthy, you are advised to get down to 2,300 milligrams. You can see how far we are from healthy targets when we eat the average American diet.

Here are some things you can do to move yourself toward a healthier sodium intake.

  • Make your own sauces (salad dressing, tomato-based sauce, and cream sauce). This is one of the most effective ways to reduce sodium. There are many recipes on the Internet for low sodium sauces. If you’re not an ‘exact recipe’ kind of cook, just using herbs and spices, can replace quite a bit of sodium – leaving you with a very flavorful dish, without most of the salt.
  • As with sauces, start experimenting with flavoring meats, pastas and casseroles with far less salt. It’s the same kind of idea – use garlic, herbs and spices to replace sodium.
  • Make an easy homemade soup, rather that the salty canned version. (Soups are strong sodium offenders).
  • Keep bread and bakery goods under control.
  • Rarely eat processed meats.
  • Use lemons, limes and vinegar to reduce sodium. You miss the tang of salt when it is lower than you are used to, but strong citrus juices and vinegar provide a nice healthy tang.
  • Become a label reader; you may be shocked how much sodium is in your food.

Don’t forget that keeping the intake of potassium up is also a very important part of the equation in maintaining healthy sodium-potassium balance. The intake of sufficient vegetables and fruit is essential; as they provide the potassium you need to keep your sodium and potassium in balance.

If you’ve been reading this blog for years, you know that I frequently write about this very important subject – I want to keep it in front of your eyes and thoughts. Even though it’s difficult in today’s food life to keep sodium down, it is ever so worth it to make the effort. I’m sending my best low-sodium, flavor-filled wishes to you to accelerate your endeavor.