Don’t A–Salt Your Kidneys

The latest dietary guidelines from the U.S. government emphasize that more than half of the American population needs to drastically cut their daily sodium intake. High–risk groups are being urged to consume only about a half a teaspoon of sodium. That is less than one–fourth of what they eat now. Too much sodium increases the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other problems.

According to new dietary guidelines, people who should drastically cut their intake of sodium are those over the age of 50; African–Americans; those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Together, these groups make up half the U.S. population.

For everyone else, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department guidelines recommend lowering their sodium intake to a “teaspoon a day” or 2,300 milligrams, which is about one-third less than the average person usually consumes.

It’s not just the salt shaker. Most sodium for the average person comes from foods sold in boxes, cans, or bags. Sodium is hidden in foods such as breads, canned soups, pasta, frozen foods and processed foods. Several large food companies have already introduced products that are lower in sodium.

Cutting sodium is very good for your health, but some people complain low–sodium food doesn’t taste as good. Experts suggest that it takes several months to appreciate low–sodium foods, but that it will pay back in better health for your heart and kidneys.

To reduce the risk of disease from high sodium intake, the guidelines recommend that people should:

  • Read nutrition labels closely and buy items labeled low in sodium.
  • Use little or no salt when cooking or eating.
  • Consume more fresh or home-prepared foods and fewer processed foods.
  • Ask that salt not be added to foods at restaurants.

The guidelines suggest filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choosing fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and eating more whole grains and seafood.