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Salty About Sodium

Approximately 80 years ago, heart disease claimed the number one spot in the United States’ “top 10 leading causes of death.” With a prevalence of obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet at an all time high, this came as no surprise; however, it not to say that nothing can be done about this. 

Although there are several uncontrollable risk factors such as age, heredity, sex, ethnicity, etc., there are several steps we can take to negate and/or prolong the negative effects of heart disease. These proactive steps include participating in regular physical activity, staying away from tobacco/excessive alcohol intake, and eating a healthy diet. These habits, in turn, can decrease your risk of developing conditions like type II diabetes, dylipidemia (poor blood lipids such as high cholesterol, LDL, etc.), obesity, and high blood pressure. 

One of the most recent focuses of the American Heart Association (AHA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and similar organizations has been to limit America’s intake of sodium in attempt to decrease the overall risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). 

When many people think of sodium, they think about the salt in the salt shaker. However, this is one of the lesser concerns when it comes to high intake. For a longer shelf life and a taste that we crave, food manufactures have found ways to sneak sodium into foods you would never expect to contain a large quantity of salt. Some of these include:

  • mixed dishes (pasta dishes, pizza, burgers etc.)
  • breads, rolls, cereals
  • deli meat
  • soup
  • some poultry products 
  • baked goods
  • sauces/dressings 
  • prepackaged snacks
  • canned vegetables
  • other canned or prepackaged foods

Here are some tips to help dodge some of this salt:

  • Read the labels! As you can see above, some unexpected foods contain high amounts of sodium
  • Cook at home often - restaurants add quite a bit of sodium into their meals. At home, you will know exactly how much you are consuming!
  • Try seasoning with other spices such as pepper, lemon, lime, paprika, cayenne, etc. 
  • Snack on lots of fruits and vegetables!
  • Take reference or follow the DASH eating plan 

Limiting salt in our diet can lead to a decreased prevalence of hypertension (a major risk factor of heart disease) and, eventually, help to knock cardiovascular disease off the number one spot.

For more information, check out the American Heart Association's page on sodium management !

Stephanie Spoto, CSCS

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