Worried about too much salt in your diet? Or has someone told you to watch your sodium levels? Good nutrition is about education and balance.
Here are several tips you can take to the grocery store for heart-healthy shopping.
The Difference Between Sodium and Salt
Salt is not the same as sodium. Salt almost always means sodium chloride, or table salt, which is 40% sodium. However, since most of our sodium come in the form of table salt, they are closely related.
Sodium is an essential mineral. It is regulated by your kidneys and helps control the fluid balance in your body, and also affects your nerves and muscle function. Therefore, it is an important part of your diet.
However, too much intake of sodium is dangerous. The biggest threat is high blood pressure. In some people, sodium raises blood pressure, significantly increasing the chance of other diseases and conditions including heart failure, stroke, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and stomach cancer.
The American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium. However, on average, most Americans consume more than twice that amount, or 3,400 mg per day (your body needs only about 500 mg per day to be healthy.) Much of what we consume comes in the form of sodium added to processed packaged and restaurant food. This makes it harder to cut down on sodium that you may not even know about in your food – unless you know where to look.
Common Sodium Terms on Nutritional Labels
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, food is not considered healthy if it has more than 480 mg of sodium per labeled serving. However, what about the other sodium-related terms? Here is what they mean:
- Sodium free: Contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving and does not contain no sodium chloride.
- Very low sodium: Contains 35 mg or less per serving.
- Low sodium: Contains 140 mg or less per serving.
- Reduced sodium: Contains at least 25% less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level.
- Light in sodium: Sodium is reduced by at least 50% per serving.
Other Names for Sodium
Other terms to watch for include anything with “soda” or “sodium” in it. Common ones include sodium bicarbonate, sodium nitrate, sodium citrate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sodium benzoate. These are all sodium by other names. Be sure you know how much of these minerals you are consuming.
Be sodium smart! Keep these healthy tips in mind along with your grocery coupons next time you shop.
Before you go, print or load the latest refrigerated food coupons to a store loyalty program below.