I was sick for most of last week, a bug that seemed to only go away after lots of rest, movies, and soup. The good news? Well, besides an excuse to catch up on Homeland, lots and lots of soup. The downside? More sodium than my body can handle. I never thought of myself as salt-sensitive but then again, I rarely eat a lot of processed foods and try to keep my sodium intake pretty low. After three days of eating more soup than my body could handle, I was puffier than a blow fish. I’m serious- my eyes were puffy, my fingers were puffy, gross. My sodium intake had skyrocketed and the effects were not pretty.
The problem from a health standpoint isn’t that diets high in sodium are bad, it’s diets high sodium AND low in minerals like potassium, magnesium, & and calcium. The balance of 1:2 sodium to potassium is best for blood pressure. No coincidence, we find potassium in “healthy” foods like Swiss chard, potatoes, bananas, spinach, lentils, and the like.
If your potassium intake is significantly lower than your sodium intake, flip the ratio. Adding potassium containing foods is easy- this blog of healthy recipes is a great place to start!
If your diet is higher in sodium, there are lots of easy ways to cut back. Start by looking on the labels of your favorite foods, you might be surprised at which items contain a lot of sodium: cereals, breads, seasoning packets. Find alternatives that are lower in sodium. I know for me, I rarely eat bread without something on it, usually avocado, hummus, or nut butter. Those items tend to be salty enough that I don’t miss the salt in my low-sodium bread.What works for you?
When you gradually cut down the salt, your taste buds adjust! Start off by slowly reducing the amount you use to cook with and see if you notice a difference. Other tips include:
- Choose foods that are low in sodium. Less than 140mg of sodium per serving is considered a “low-sodium” product
- TASTE food before salting it. Get used to the taste of natural flavors
- Use spices and herbs as flavoring! Avoid mixed seasonings and spice blends that include salt, such as garlic salt
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables! You’ll get more potassium, which is beneficial in high sodium diets
- Many drinks like sports drinks, juice, and smoothies can be very high in sodium. Try water instead!
- Prepared meats, like bacon, ham, hot dogs, and deli meats are very high in sodium. If you need another reason to limit them, here’s you are.
- If you still use a saltshaker, take it off the table!
What do you do to reduce sodium in your diet?