Nowadays people are concerned about so many ingredients in food, but excess sodium is one of the biggest dietary threats to our health that is often forgotten about. In fact, too much sodium has been proven time and time again to cause heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Short term effects of too much dietary sodium can include sweating, excessive thirst, brain fog, headaches, fatigue and dehydration. While sodium is an essential mineral, it’s estimated that Canadians are consuming almost double the amount of sodium we need everyday. Even so called “healthy”, “all-natural” or “organic” foods can contain very high levels of sodium, especially if they are processed or prepackaged. It’s extremely easy to ingest way more sodium than you need everyday without even realizing it; sodium can occur in foods that many people wouldn’t suspect, such as muffins, ice cream, and condiments. Below are some tips on how you can reduce your sodium intake for better health.
Eat at home more often
This is a hard truth for busy people such as myself, but the fact is that if you eat out a lot you’re going to end up ingesting a lot of extra sodium. Even just substituting a few restaurant meals per week with something home- prepared will significantly lower your sodium intake.
If you must eat out, ask for dressings and sauces on the side, and communicate to your server that you would prefer to not have any added salt on your food. Most restaurants have nutritional information listed online, so do your research to find the lowest sodium options.
Ditch lunch meat
Processed meats such as salami, hot dogs, bacon, and even turkey are extremely high in sodium. If you’re going to eat meat pick lean meats and cook them yourself so that you can control the amount of salt you use. Experiment with fresh herbs, onions, garlic and vinegar to add flavor without using a lot of salt.
Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy
Fresh fruits and veggies are naturally low in sodium, as is low fat or greek yogurt and kefir. Foods such bread, cheese and boxed meals and canned goods are always going to contain more sodium. If you do eat canned vegetables or beans, give them a rinse first to wash away some of the excess sodium.
Swap your cheese
I love my cheese! But unfortunately it can be very high in sodium, and it’s also really easy to overeat. Mozzarella, Bocconcini and even cream cheese have significantly lower sodium than other cheeses such as cheddar.
Ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, dips and salad dressings are all high in sodium and can easy turn an otherwise healthy meal into a high sodium one. Some alternatives include sour cream, homemade tzatziki or hummus, lemon juice and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Eating a mostly whole foods diet is the easiest way to reduce your sodium intake. However, in real life most of us are going to eat out or eat packaged and processed foods from time to time. Knowledge is power, so read those food labels and don’t be afraid to ask for nutritional information when eating at restaurants. Oftentimes you will be surprised at how much sodium one little loaf of bread or jar of tomato sauce has. Eating less sodium can be as simple as just switching to a different brand, or opting for foods labeled as “reduced salt” or “less sodium”. If you’re really concerned, there are great apps available such as eaTracker that can help you keep track of what you’re eating.