You’re seated at Sunday brunch, eyeing a salt bagel and a Bloody Mary, complete with a salty rim (and of course a dash of celery salt).
While you may already be salivating, before you indulge in a few salty snacks, you might want to consider how much salt you consume on a regular basis—especially in light of a new study by the European Heart Journal. The study revealed a correlation between the amount of salt participants added to their meals and their risk of dying prematurely.
While sodium plays a crucial role in your body’s overall function, getting too much of it can have negative effects on your health.
How Much Salt Is Too Much Salt?
We all need some sodium in our diets. Sodium helps support the nerves and muscles and regulates fluids in the body. Without salt, your body would never retain a healthy amount of water, and your nerve signals would be slower.
But the issue is many of us are getting too much salt.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults limit their salt intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day—but states the “ideal limit” is actually 1,500 milligrams per day. That’s about one teaspoon.
But the saltshaker isn’t the only source of excess salt in our diets; it’s tucked into many foods that may not even taste salty but contain a shockingly high level of sodium.
Some of the most popular foods with disproportionately high levels of sodium include:
- Processed meats
- Pasta sauces
Salt and High Blood Pressure
Consuming too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which in turn can cause heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, according to the AHA.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is the stiffening and narrowing of your blood vessels. This leads to less blood and oxygen flowing to your vital organs. Essentially, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood through your system, which further exacerbates your blood pressure.
At the center of this problem are the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering more than 120 quarts of blood throughout your body each day. Your kidneys work to siphon unwanted toxins from the blood and flush them to the bladder.
Having too much salt in your system can bog down your kidneys, making them less efficient at filtering out substances that increase your blood pressure.
Although it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution, not everyone processes salt the same way. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about how much sodium you can handle.
Salt and Kidney Disease
In addition to reducing your kidneys’ efficacy at filtering toxins from your blood, too much sodium can increase your risk of kidney disease.
For many people, this continuous strain on their kidneys eventually leads to kidney disease. For those who already have kidney disease, the evidence also suggests increased sodium will increase kidney deterioration.
Yet, many people still struggle to limit their sodium. In one U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases study, researchers examined 4,000 people living with kidney disease. Although the AHA recommends a daily sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams, those in the study had an average of 3,700 milligrams per day.
Tips to Reduce your Sodium Intake
Although salt is seemingly everywhere, try to be mindful of how much you’re actually eating.
Here are a few simple tips to decrease salt in your daily diet.
- Look at labels: Choose foods labeled “low-sodium” or “no salt added” at the grocery store.
- Avoid prepackaged goods: Limit store-bought mixes, sauces, or instant products. Opt for homemade alternatives instead.
- Swap your seasonings: Use fresh garlic, onion, black pepper, lemon juice, or other interesting seasonings instead of piling on the salt when cooking at home.
- Think fresh: Purchase fresh meats rather than cured ones to avoid the added sodium.
- “Hold the salt, please”: When dining out, ask that no salt be added to your meal or request a low-sodium alternative.
- Skip store-bought soups: Make your own soups from scratch so you can control how much salt goes into it.
- Try Himalayan salt: Sourced from the mountains of South Asia, Himalayan salt is thought to be a healthier alternative to sodium chloride, or common table salt. It’s recognized by its signature pink tint from the trace minerals it contains. Himalayan salt contains slightly fewer milligrams of sodium per tablespoon than table salt. It also contains traces of nutrients table salt doesn’t have, including Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, and Magnesium. While swapping table salt for Himalayan salt won’t offset the downsides of consuming too much sodium, it can be a small healthy change.
The Bottom Line
Although you may not feel the effects of excess sodium now, eating too much salt could have a negative long-term impact on your health.
The recommended daily amount of sodium is 2,300 milligrams. Most of us are eating more than that. But by making a few minor changes, you can reduce your daily salt intake.
Need support making healthier choices? An Arootah coach can help you identify and solidify your goals while holding you accountable to take the steps you need to take to meet them.
What are some of your favorite low-sodium options for your favorite foods? Discuss in the comments!