Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Most people are aware that excessive salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure. But what constitutes salt? When doctors talk about salt, we are mainly referring to sodium chloride or table salt. However, it is the sodium component that is potentially harmful to your health. In addition to salt, sodium is found in many other products, such as baking soda, baking powder, and soy sauce, to name but a few.
How much sodium do I need?
Many doctors recommend that we consume less than 2,400 mg of sodium daily, which is approximately a teaspoon of salt. If you have certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or congestive heart failure, your doctor may recommend even less than this. Unfortunately, the average American diet includes over 4,000 mg of sodium a day.
How can I make my food taste good if I donít add table salt?
There are many innovative ways to make nutritious, delicious dishes without reaching for the salt shaker.
*Season foods with lemon or lime juice.
*Use fresh herbs whenever possible.
* Ask your doctor about salt substitutes. Some substitutes are potassium-based instead of sodium-based. While they are very tasty, not everyone should use these substitutes, including people with kidney disease or those who take certain medications that have the potential to make the blood potassium level rise.
*Donít add salt to the water when you cook. Sprinkle it lightly on the food once it is done cooking.
*Experiment with new spices. Youíll be surprised what fabulous dishes you can develop with a little ingenuity.
Read the label to put healthier food on your table.
When you shop, always read nutrition labels. Most people compare prices to get the best deal. Routinely comparing the nutritional content of products may help you save much more than a few pennies. It may save you a trip to the emergency room, or worse!
Donít be discouraged. You can eat almost anything in moderation. Eating healthy does not mean that you have to give up all your favorite foods. It just means that you have to learn a fine balancing act. If you want to eat a lunch with a high sodium content, make sure you plan your breakfast and dinner to be very low in sodium.
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh fish, chicken, and lean meats, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. You may be surprised how much sodium food manufacturers slip into their products to make them taste more palatable.
Donít despair. The world is still your oyster. Even eating out is not prohibited and can actually be quite healthy. Just make wise choices when you order.
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