The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


March 5, 2014

Flavorful Foods

No salt needed

Sodium in the diet (called dietary sodium) is measured in milligrams (mg). Table salt is 40 percent sodium; 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium. That is not a lot if you consider a grilled cheese made with two pieces of American cheese (360 mg) and two pieces of wheat bread (440 mg) contains 800 mg of sodium.

Most people take in much more sodium in their diets than is needed. It has been estimated that American diets contain as much as 15 times the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of sodium.

Sodium is a mineral that the body needs to function properly. It is also one of the electrolyte minerals conducting electricity when dissolved. It works closely with the other important electrolyte minerals, potassium and chloride.

Our typical diet tends to be so salt-laden that sodium is one mineral we seldom have to supplement. It is critical, together with potassium, for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, and for the correct balance of body fluids.  

High sodium intake is frequently linked to increased blood volume and high blood pressure (hypertension). This is especially so if the kidneys cannot get rid of excess efficiently, leading to a build-up of sodium, particularly if potassium levels are low, as potassium balances out some of the effects of sodium.

Excess sodium may also cause a dangerous buildup of fluid in those with liver cirrhosis, congestive heart failure or kidney disease.

Healthy adults should limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. Adults with high blood pressure should have no more than 1,500 mg per day. Those with congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, and kidney disease may need much lower amounts.

The specific amount of sodium intake recommended for infants, children and adolescents is not clear. Eating habits and attitudes about food formed during childhood are likely to influence eating habits for life. For this reason, avoiding excess salt intake is a good idea.

When watching the intake of sodium, read labels carefully to determine the total sodium content. Canned, packaged and frozen foods can be particularly high in sodium.

When it comes to making flavorful foods without adding additional sodium, look to using fresh products, fresh herbs and spices, fresh citrus fruits, olive oils and creative cooking methods.

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