Let’s face it: Most of us—about 90% of Americans—are eating too much sodium. We need less than 2,300 mg/day, though most of us take in closer to 3,400 mg. The body works hard to process this excess sodium, which takes a toll on your heart and blood vessels. Over time, this can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems. Here are 6 signs you’re eating too much sodium:
You eat a lot of packaged foods
Most of us think of sodium in salty snacks but even if you’re not a chipaholic, chances are that if you’re eating a lot of pre-packaged or ultra-processed foods, you’re taking in too much sodium. Much of the sodium in our diets comes from very common foods, like breads, cheeses, cold cuts, pizza, savory snacks (such as chips and crackers), and soups.
You eat out a lot
There are sodium landmines all over restaurant menus! Even healthy-sounding foods come with a side of high blood pressure. Take the Panera Chinese Citrus Cashew Salad with 920 mg of sodium. I love the Kale Caesar at Sweet Green, but it packs 1130 mg of sodium. I haven’t even mentioned things like soups, sandwiches, sushi, and other fare that is typically loaded with sodium. If you’re partaking in meals out, you’re probably not doing too well in the sodium department.
You’re over 50
Thanks to celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker and George Clooney, it’s cool to be 50+. Except it also comes with a greater risk of developing heart disease or stroke. The American Heart Association says it’s ideal for the over 50 crowd to limit sodium to no more than 1,500 mg/day. I recognize that’s tough to do—especially considering we’re not close to hitting the more moderate 2,300 mg of sodium per day—but the point is, if you’re above 50, you should watch the salt.
You feel bloated
Excess sodium can contribute to bloating because it encourages the body to hold on to water. Dialing down on the sodium and dialing up the potassium (a crucial mineral in the fluid balance equation) by including lots of fruits and veggies will help keep you from retaining too much fluid.
You’re very thirsty
While there are certainly other causes for feeling parched, excessive salt in the diet can be the culprit. In an effort to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, your body responds to excessive sodium by increasing thirst. Drinking water, reducing sodium intake, and eating more fruits and veggies to increase potassium intake are helpful in restoring the fluid-electrolyte balance.
You find your food bland
Once we’re accustomed to higher-than-average sodium levels, it’s noticeable (perhaps even bland-tasting) when foods have more responsible levels of this mineral. Hang in there. It takes up to four months to adjust to a reduction in sodium. The key is to use herbs and spices to create flavor. Aromatic vegetables, like onions, are another great way to boost flavor.
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