Change Your High-Sodium Ways
We’re all familiar with how bad fatty food is for us, but salt is also a health hazard – and many people are getting way too much of it.
To raise awareness of our salty ways, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is launching a 21-day Sodium Swap Challenge.
The first step, organizers say, is to become aware of exactly how much sodium you’re taking in every day. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by AHA/ASA. The dangers of too much salt are clear: Excessive salt consumption has been linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
But instead of trying to change your sodium habits all at once, the AHA/ASA recommends a more gradual approach that makes success likelier.
"To get started with the association's challenge, we ask that consumers get familiar with the food labels and nutrition facts for the foods they eat and track their sodium consumption over the first two days,” Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., RD, FADA, AHA/ASA spokesperson, said in a statement. “I'm sure [the results] will be surprising to many people."
To help people gradually wean themselves off sodium, the AHA/ASA has divided the sodium-swap challenge into three weeks. In the first week, the association suggests focusing on the sodium content of breads and processed meats. (One piece of bread can have 230 milligrams of sodium.) In the second week, look at the sodium content in pizza and processed poultry. In the third week, take a look at the soup and sandwiches you consume. (One cup of chicken noodle soup may have up to 940 milligrams of sodium – 60 percent of your daily allowance.)
The AHA/ASA also recommends looking for the Heart Check Mark on food items in grocery stores and restaurants. That designation means the food falls within heart-healthy guidelines. (For more information, visit www.heartcheckmark.org, and for tips on how to make your Sodium Swap Challenge a successful one, click here.