We need sodium to make our bodies function properly, but Americans tend to overdo it
Salt may get a bad rap, but we need some sodium in our diet. It’s necessary for fluid balance, muscle strength and nerve function. Guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day; that’s the equivalent of about 1 teaspoon of table salt. We may think we’ve limited our sodium intake, but about 50 percent of Americans still get too much salt. Most of this is hidden in the foods we buy.
- Cereal. Some brands of raisin bran pack 250 milligrams of sodium per cup. Who knew? Choose low-sodium cereals or make a mix of half of your favorite cereal and half of a sodium-free kind. Puffed rice and puffed wheat are sodium free.
- Condiments. Yes, ketchup and sweet relish contain sodium. If your grocery store doesn’t carry low-sodium version, try condiments that are naturally lower in sodium. Apple butter is an excellent choice.
- Frozen dinners. These can be loaded with sodium. Don’t assume “light” means less salty. Check the label carefully.
- Pre-packaged pasta and rice. Add the flavor packet to that convenient box, and you could have more than half of the daily recommended allowance in one serving. Our advice: Skip the pre-packaged versions.
- Soups. Chicken soup may be good for the soul, but it’s probably packed with salt. Check the label and choose reduced-sodium versions of your favorites.
- Vegetable juice. One cup can contain as much as 479 milligrams of sodium. Before you drink one of your five servings, make sure it’s a low-sodium version.
Note: Don’t be fooled by the nutritional jargon on the label. Here’s how much sodium you’re really getting:
- Sodium-free: Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving
- Very low-sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving
- Low-sodium: Less than 140 milligrams per serving
- Reduced sodium: Sodium level reduced by 25 percent
- Unsalted, no salt added or without added salt: Made without the salt normally used, but still contains the sodium that’s a natural part of the food itself.