Sodium plays a critical role in many of the body’s key functions. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s no wonder we’re hardwired to love its taste. But as we all know, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Excess sodium can lead to life-threatening ailments such as stomach cancer, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. So what’s the best way to manage your intake? Don’t overindulge in high-sodium servings on a regular basis.
How much is a lot of sodium per serving anyway? And how can you better manage your daily intake? Let’s take a look at how you can eat your way to better health — without making unnecessary sacrifices.
Understanding Your Recommended Sodium Intake
Most doctors recommend a daily sodium intake of 2,300mg. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans instead consume 3,400mg, around 50% more than the recommendation. That really adds up!
Some people — but not most — don’t suffer any ill effects from excess sodium. Those who do have a trait known as sodium sensitivity.
Until they curb their sodium consumption, they’ll suffer from hypertension and high blood pressure, which can wreak havoc on the circulatory system. For those with sodium sensitivity, most professionals suggest a decreased intake of 1,500mg every day. That’s a third of what the average American consumes.
If you think you’re on the low end of the spectrum, think again. A food item doesn’t have to taste “salty” for it to be filled to the brim with sodium.
For example, a basic slice of white bread can contain 400mg of sodium. If you make a sandwich with two slices, you’re looking at 800mg before any of the meat, cheese, or condiments. No wonder everyone consumes more sodium than they should!
How Much Is a Lot of Sodium per Serving?
Since serving sizes vary and are somewhat arbitrary, let’s look at something more concrete. Something like… calories.
Everyone has their own individual calorie requirements based on sex, activity, and weight. But most diets and individuals sit around the 2,000 calorie requirement. We can use this to determine when a certain food item may break our sodium budget.
You need 2,300mg of sodium a day and 2,000 calories. Whenever you’re about to eat, take a look at the food label. How many calories is a serving, and how much sodium?
With our calorie and sodium ratio, you should consume about a milligram of sodium for every calorie. For example, let’s consider a college student staple: Ramen.
A package of dried ramen contains two servings, according to the label. For 370 calories, you’ll also consume 1,520mg of sodium. That’s nearly five times as much sodium as calories — and a single bag would break the bank for those with sodium sensitivity.
It’s safe to say that’s too much sodium for anyone concerned about their intake. If you’re dying for a pasta dish, stick to something like edamame spaghetti, with 0mg of sodium per serving. Be careful with the sauce, though!
Tips to Consume Less Sodium
Sodium isn’t good for taste alone. It’s also an excellent food preserver, so it’s found in abundance in prepackaged foods across the country. While sticking to our 1:1 ratio of calories and sodium seems simple enough, you may struggle to avoid salty foods.
To that end, here are 5 tips that can help you lower your sodium intake and live a healthier life.
- Avoid Canned Foods
When it comes to fresh, frozen, or canned foods, you have several options. But few Americans have the time or money to make adequate use of fresh food. So, should you go with canned or frozen varieties?
In general, canned fruits, vegetables, and fish rely on sodium to stay preserved. Frozen foods, on the other hand, stay fresh in the cold. Always choose frozen foods when you need something with a bit of shelf life.
- Use a Salt-Free Water Softener
Do you use a water softener to alleviate hard water in your home? You should know that there are two types of water softeners: salt and salt-free.
Salt water softeners contribute to your daily sodium intake. Opt to a salt-free model to avoid any excess.
- Add Spice — Not Salt
If you’re fond of your saltshaker, you may want to break that habit. You can season foods with other flavorful spices like garlic powder, dried mustard, and vinegar (which tastes salty on its own!).
It’s true that these alternatives aren’t the same, but they’re similar, healthy options that get the job done.
- Read the Labels
For the best control of your sodium intake, always read the labels. Many will boast claims such as “reduced” sodium, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe option. A single tablespoon of a reduced-sodium soy sauce is almost 500mg.
Never trust promotional claims without seeing the stats on the food label.
- Try Low-Sodium Condiments
It’s easy to pretend condiments aren’t a part of the meal. After all, they’re such a small portion. Thing is, condiments can be some of the saltiest components of any dish.
Ketchup, hot sauce, and soy sauce are some of the biggest offenders. Instead, make your own in a few minutes!
Cut the Salt
How much is a lot of sodium per serving? For the average American diet, almost everything contains too much. But if you stick to the 1:1 ratio — which means, yes, you need to read the labels — then you can determine the good foods from the bad.
Hungry for more health or fitness advice? Take a look at the rest of the blog!