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Feb 10 2016
Healthy Heart: Let's Talk About Sodium

February is American Heart Month. Today we are going to talk about a little nutrient with a big impact on our heart health. Sodium is a nutrient found in many foods that we eat. Sodium in excessive amounts may impact our cardiovascular health. Too much sodium can cause us to hold onto extra fluid in our body which makes our hearts work harder. Excess sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. 

While sodium is an essential part of a healthy diet, most of us consume more than the recommended amount. The average American consumes 3440 mg of sodium each day. That’s well over the recommended 2300 mg of sodium per day for healthy adults and children over the age of 14. 

You may be thinking, “This does not pertain to me, I don’t salt my food”. It is a great start to not salt your food. However, approximately 75 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and dining out, not the salt shaker. Foods that are notoriously high in sodium include soup, deli meats, poultry and pizza. For example, one cup of chicken noodle soup can have between 700-800 mg of sodium. That’s over a third of the recommended total for the day! We also end up consuming extra sodium in bread, cheese and condiments. There are bread products that contain over 200 mg of sodium per serving. During the course of the day, this can add up quite quickly. 

Food labels are our best tool in lowering sodium consumption. Many common high-sodium foods have low-sodium counterparts available. Foods labeled low sodium should have less than 140 mg per serving. This can be a great place to start. Foods like fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Most of us could benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables. Incorporating a fruit or vegetable at each meal or at snack time can be a great way to start lowering your total sodium. 

So what can you do to lower the total sodium in your day? 
• Fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables which are naturally low in sodium.
• Choose low-sodium versions of foods you eat frequently.
• Read the ingredient label. Knowing what is in the foods you eat can be the start to making good decisions.
• Flavor your foods with herbs, spices or flavored oils.

Abbey Bubolz, RD, CD, is a registered dietician at Holy Family Memorial. 


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