Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: Sodium

Sodium often gets a bad rap when it comes to diets, but our bodies do need it in order to function. Sodium is necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation, helps transmit nerve impulses and helps to maintain fluid levels in the body. Many of the symptoms of water intoxication (drinking too much water) is the result of washing the sodium out of the body.

Of course, like everything else, sodium should be consumed in moderation. If you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications, you may need to extremely limit your sodium. Water is attracted to sodium so when there is too much sodium in the blood, your blood volume increases causing your heart to work harder. Here are some ways to reduce the sodium in your diet:

- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen is also good as long as there is no sauce, seasonings or salt added. Many canned fruits and veggies are high in sodium, but if you buy the ones labeled "no salt added", you should be okay.

- Use spices and herbs in place of salt when seasoning food. Citrus zest is also a yummy alternative.

- Choose reduced sodium and no-salt-added foods when possible.

- Make your own broths and soups or choose ones that are low-sodium.

- When dining out, order your food with no salt added and be aware of the sodium levels in what you do order.

- Avoid processed foods. 77% of the salt Americans consume comes from prepared or processed foods. Cooking from scratch lets you know exactly what is in your food.

Like most things in life, sodium is both good for us and has the potential to harm us if used to excess. The recommendation is too not exceed 2,400mg a day of sodium and if you are in the high risk category (African-American, have high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney problems, etc) you should stay below 1,500mg a day. Those limits do not just include salt that you add to foods either while cooking or while eating. It also includes sodium already in food, be it naturally or processed. If you are watching your sodium intake be sure you are counting all your sources.

As with all medical information I share on my blog, please consult your doctor before making major changes. I am not a doctor or a nurse and my advice should not be taken as medical advice.

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