New Sodium Guidelines Will Present Many Challenges

The committee for the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has recommended a lower sodium intake for Americans: Reduce sodium intake from the current recommendation of 2300 mg. down to 1500 mg. daily.

There is no question that for many people, sodium intake is excessive and a contributing factor for chronic diseases, such as heart disease or hypertension. Today’s average American consumes 3400 mg. of sodium daily, which is already in excess of the old sodium standard. Knowing the existing amount of sodium found in many of the foods we eat, I have to wonder just how many people are going to be able to achieve or even come close to the new, lower guidelines.

To demonstrate what I mean, here’s a short list of some common foods and their sodium content:

6 saltine crackers: 234 mg

1 slice bread: 150 – 200 mg

1 cup low fat milk: 130 mg

2 TB. Peanut butter: 156 mg

3 oz. Lean beef: 57 mg.

There are many foods we don’t even think of as a source of sodium, like bread or milk. Eating a peanut butter sandwich for lunch adds up to about 350 mg. of sodium, and that’s before we decide what else we are going to eat or drink with the sandwich.

The more processed a food becomes, the higher the sodium content is going to be. Lean Cuisine® frozen meals frequently contain 600 mg. or more sodium. Some fast foods items like Burger King’s Whopper Cheeseburger has 1390 mg sodium, almost as much as the new guideline states we should have for one day. Even Boar’s Head Lower Sodium Deluxe Ham has 460 mg. sodium for a 2 oz. portion. Having lower sodium processed foods available is a start, but manufacturers are going to have to do much more to help consumers reduce their sodium intake.

So until manufacturers make lower sodium foods more available to us, what can you do to get your lower your salt intake? The short answer is to go for the whole foods and keep your eating clean.

Clean eating” is not a diet or special foods, but more a way of life. It is based on the idea that the best way to eat is to abundantly enjoy whole foods. Whole foods are as close to their natural state as you can get them. In other words, the processing of the food is minimal. Clean eating calls for eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins instead of packaged, processed foods or fast food. The whole foods come without the addition of salt and are naturally lower in sodium.

Finding clean foods requires a simple sweep around the of your grocery store or a visit to your local farmers market. Less processing, less packaging, and more whole foods will help you make the biggest reduction in your sodium intake. Using spices and herbs to flavor food instead of the salt shaker can make a big difference as well.

I’m not sure that the average person will be able to achieve the new sodium guideline. It is going to be very challenging to say the least. Even if you don’t reach the 1500 mg. level, there are compelling health benefits, along with an abundance of healthy foods you can eat to gradually work your way down the sodium ladder.

© 2010, Gretchen Scalpi, RD, CDE. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

Gretchen is an author, consultant, speaker and Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist (Lifestyle Eating and Performance), specializing in the clinical management of food sensitivities and related conditions. She opened her private nutrition practice in 2002 and has expanded to two office locations in New Windsor and Beacon, NY. Gretchen’s practice provides individual nutritional counseling in the areas of diabetes, weight management, food sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, and general wellness. To work with Gretchen Scalpi please visit http://www.nutritionxpert.com

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