Believe it or not, salt (or Sodium chloride) is actually quite necessary for life. Salt is, in fact, so important that USDA sodium guidelines have been established.
These guidelines state that the average person should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That might sound like a lot of salt at first, but in reality, it is merely one teaspoon. The amount of salt that should be consumed is even lower for people with hypertension. For these individuals, the USDA is recommending no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
You may be thinking, "well no problem, I probably don't actually eat a whole teaspoon of salt each day." But here is the bad news: According to a recent New York Times article, the average American consumes between 3,000 and 4,500 mg of sodium every single day!
Here is my little "history lesson" on the importance of salt. (Don't worry, I will keep it brief)
Salt, until very recently, was a highly valued commodity. Today, we literally toss salt over our shoulders for good luck. After all, it is easy and inexpensive to buy salt at the grocery store. However, there was a time in history when a lack of salt was important enough to launch wars between countries.
Before the advent of modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve foods of all sorts. This was particularly the case with meat. Cultures all over the world have used salt to preserve food. Salt is still used in this capacity even today. However, in today's world apparently our use of salt has gotten so out of hand, that the USDA has established special guidelines. And according to statistics, few people are actually following these guidelines about how to use salt safely.
Getting the Right Balance of Sodium
Having too much sodium in your diet, can lead to numerous health problems including high blood pressure. But at the same time, we need salt to remain healthy. Sodium plays a key role in the contraction and relaxation of the body's muscles. Sodium also assists in the transmission of nerve impulses. It’s all about balance, as too much salt is bad and not getting enough salt is also not a good idea.
Avoiding sodium is not as easy as it may initially appear. Sodium can hide itself in a variety of way. The easiest way to get too much sodium in your diet is to eat processed or fast food. For example, a can of tomato soup seems like a pretty healthy food choice, and sometimes it may be. However, a can of tomato soup can have a staggering 1300 mg of sodium.
The same holds true for frozen pizzas, for example. Sodium also hides in another unsuspecting source- soy sauce. Soy sauce is loaded down with sodium, as much as a 1,000 mg in one tablespoon. The real trick is to read the labels on what you are buying so that you know how much sodium is in what you eat.
What is even more challenging is to avoid eating food with high sodium levels while eating out. The notion of fast food restaurants posting their ingredients and caloric information is only now beginning to gain momentum. Most large fast food chains do have at least some information about the calories, fat content and sodium content in their food. If you have no choice but to frequently eat at restaurants (especially fast food restaurants or chains), it is definitely worth your time to go online and see if you can check out the nutritional facts.
Do you find it easy or challenging to meet the recommended USDA Sodium Guidelines?