Like many of you, I am trying to be mindful of my diet and watch what I eat. I have cut fast food almost to zero, increased my intake of fruits and veggies, only rarely drink soft drinks, and try to avoid red meat as much as possible. Despite all these efforts, my blood pressure was not in a range that made me happy. What I discovered is that despite my healthier eating choices, I was still consuming a tremendous amount of sodium.
The Sodium in Your Diet Fact Sheet on the FDA website mentions that “Americans eat on average over 3,400 mg of sodium per day, with intakes generally higher for men than women. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults and children ages 14 years and older limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day. Adults with hypertension and prehypertension should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.” What I didn’t realize is that just about EVERYTHING I eat contains sodium. I was aware of sodium in things like frozen pizza, canned soup, and cold cuts, but I was amazed at the sodium levels in bread, cereal, cheese, and other things I took for granted. Not to mention the sodium levels in restaurant food. Once I actually started monitoring my sodium intake, I saw my blood pressure levels come down.
As an example, I chose an organic breakfast cereal because organic is supposed to be good for you, right? The cereal has 300 mg of sodium per ¾ cup. My multi-grain bread has plenty of dietary fiber and protein, but each slice contains 160 mg of sodium. The pancake mix I use has 960 mg of sodium per cup. Even mayonnaise, mustard, and other condiments contain sodium, so they must be factored in when considering what to eat. My favorite sandwich at Newk’s contains 2549 mg of sodium which is more than the daily limit. That doesn’t include the extra pickles and bread sticks that I have along with it. Nor does it include the side of pasta salad (305 mg). Now when I go to Newk’s, I choose one of the lower sodium salads.
If you’d like to learn more about reducing the sodium in your diet, the library has a tremendous collection of books that can help you. Not only do they provide information on identifying high-sodium foods, they also provide tasty recipes for meals to prepare at home. You can find nutrition information for many restaurant menus online. Don't get frustrated and think you can't eat anything, just become more aware of what you eat.