Taming Your Sodium Intake

Do you ever feel off after eating? Do you experience swelling, pulsation in your head or excessive weight gain? If so, you may need to pay attention to the amount of sodium you’re consuming—especially in the winter.

During the holidays, it’s tempting to set aside healthy eating habits and reach your daily sodium limit in one meal. Most Americans consume nearly 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, compared to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendation of 1,500 mg per day or less. Consuming too much sodium regularly can cause uncomfortable side effects and lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Heather Butscher, a registered nutritionist for University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center explains, “Sodium draws fluid, such as water, into compartments that normally don’t carry fluid. This creates stress on the heart and can cause blood pressure to rise.” Changing your eating habits, especially during the holiday season, and decreasing your sodium consumption can help.

The following scenarios, paired with sodium-friendly alternatives, can help you take control of your sodium consumption.

Scenario 1: Warming up with a bowl of canned soup

Sodium-friendly solution: One can of soup normally contains your daily limit of sodium. Instead, cook your own version of your favorite soup. You can either make your broth or buy low-sodium beef, chicken or mushroom broth. A batch of soup can provide multiple servings that you can freeze and enjoy at a later time.

Scenario 2: Going out to eat at your favorite restaurant

Sodium-friendly solution: To avoid going over your daily limit of sodium, be aware of common high-sodium dishes, including pizza and burgers with fries. Simple requests – such as no added salt, asking for your dressing on the side, a half-portion of sauce or no bun with your burger – can make a huge difference in the amount of sodium you consume.

Scenario 3: Filling your plate with treats at a holiday party

Sodium-friendly solution: It’s often difficult to portion your sodium at holiday parties. Bring a low-sodium dish, so you know you have options. Try caprese avocado skewers, with sliced cherry tomatoes, basil and avocado. Drizzle with a balsamic glaze and serve!

To gauge your sodium intake, talk with your primary care provider (PCP) about your blood pressure numbers and risk for prehypertension or hypertension. If you’re at risk, discuss how you can decrease your sodium consumption and make changes to your diet.

Source: American Heart Association