|Written by Susan Lee|
Salt seems to be such an important essential ingredient in our daily meals.Â There are no calories or fat so why is it that we need to curb our salt intake.Â We have learned that salt can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, strokes and heart disease.Â Well, if salt is so bad for us, why do we need it?
Our bodies do need a certain amount of salt and it varies from person to person, depending on age, size and your amount of activity.Â It is estimated that people who exercise a lot need more salt as more of it is excreted from the bodies through our sweat.Â It is estimated that most of us consume about double of the necessary daily intake of sodium, (sodium chloride).Â On average the human body needs only about ÂĽ teaspoon per day.Â Doesnâ€™t seem like much, does it?
There is a lot more to watching your salt intake than the infamous salt shaker.Â If you read labels you can see how much sodium there is in just about everything you need.Â Our bodies generally should not eat more than 2400 mg. of sodium daily and when you look at some of these labels, WOW; it is amazing how much sodium there could be in just one item and/or meal that you are eating.Â And when you times that by the sodium content in the rest of your meal plan for that day, it can be a real eye opener.
For years, salt was a very important ingredient in preserving foods, curing meats, enhancing flavors in certain foods, bringing out the moisture in other foods and has even been used to thicken soups and sauces.Â If you would just start reading labels you would be astounded as to the amount of salt/sodium in foods that you would consider sweet; foods that you would assume have no salt content.Â It is in about everything.Â You also need to be aware of other names for sodium such as MSG, sodium bicarbonate, sodium caseinate, tri-sodium phosphate, and sodium ascorbate.Â You may think that just because an item does not say, in plain English, salt/sodium, you are safe.Â You have to also be aware of most diet foods, as the sodium seems to be increased to make the foods taste better, so, even though the food may be very low in calories and fat, the sodium levels may well be off the wall!
There are always little ways to start curbing your salt intake and the first is to kick the shaker habit.Â How many times have you gotten a meal placed in front of you and you grab for the salt shaker before even tasting the food to see if you even need more salt?Â Try using sea salt as it generally contain trace amounts of minerals like iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, Â zinc, where actually less seems more as you would use less sea salt for more flavor.
Try to avoid processed meats as we all know, what do they add to process those meats . . . large amounts of sodium?Â Anything that is labeled smoked, roasted or mesquite is usually extra salty.Â Try to look for low sodium varieties of processed meats, hot dogs and luncheon meats.
Other foods such as soups, frozen foods and canned vegetables all have high content of sodium.Â Pretty soon we wonâ€™t know what we can eat to be healthier.Â I think we all know that fast food is a real danger and should be avoided, to some extent.Â Doesnâ€™t mean we never eat out but watch your choices and occasionally is O.K.
There are other alternatives and actually once you start cutting down on your salt intake, especially with that dreaded shaker, you may feel the effects at first but after a while of cutting down on salt, you will actually be sensitive to too much salt in your foods.Â Try using other types of herbs to add more flavors to foods.Â Also adding some hot peppers may add a little spice and zing to your food without adding the salt and it is actually good for you and gives your metabolism a little boost.Â Â Â Of course if you would rather pepper sauce and pickled peppers, be sure to check those labels again.
There is also the citrus additive to add spark to food as well as low sodium varieties of condiments such as mustard, mayo and low sodium ketchups.Â There is a whole world of foods you can enjoy with low and/or no sodium so be sure to widen your horizons, read labels and be as healthy as you possibly can.