Seniors: Leave the Salt Shaker Alone!

Oct 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

We senior citizens have some interesting addictions, and one of them is salt.  Yup!  Unless we have been advised to do otherwise, we add salt to almost everything we are served, even before we taste it.  Approximately a third of adults in the United States have high blood pressure, and John Hopkins Medicine Health Alerts suggests salty diets may carry some of the blame. 

Just how much is a milligram (mg) of sodium?  A level teaspoon of sodium (the primary ingredient in salt) is 2400 milligrams.  Adult Americans consume 3400 to 4000 milligrams of sodium a day.  The recommended daily intake for a healthy adult is 2300 mg per day or less.  

The research about the dangers of high sodium intake fills thousands of Internet pages.  The American Heart Association provides links to many research studies,

that clearly show the relationship between high sodium diets and high blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease (including heart attacks) and strokes.   

So what can we do to lower our intake of sodium/salt?  John Hopkins Health Alerts offer the following common sense suggestions:

  1. Know your daily recommendations: When shopping, look for foods that have less than 10 percent of your daily sodium allowance per serving. For example, if you are allowed 1,500 mg daily, chose a food with no more than 150 mg of sodium per serving. And remember, food labels are based on a 2,300-mg per day sodium diet, but the daily recommendation for older adults, blacks, and people with hypertension is much lower (no more than 1,500 mg per day) so be ready to calculate according to your personal recommended allowance.
  2. Rinse canned foods: Rinsing canned tuna, vegetables, and other foods can help wash away salt. For example, a half cup of canned beans contains about 350 to 500 mg of sodium. Draining and rinsing beans will cut that by about one third. Other options: Look for low-sodium beans (and rinse those, too) or use dry beans, which have negligible sodium.
  3. Eat in (or speak up when dining out): A recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that a single meal at a chain restaurant can have three to five days’ worth of sodium for people trying to limit salt intake. Ask the chef not to use salt or MSG (a salty food additive) and request sauces on the side.  
  4. Choose fresh foods when possible: Food processing almost always boosts sodium. For example, a medium plain baked potato contains about 20 mg of sodium, while a medium serving of french fries has about 10 times that.
  5. When buying packaged foods, read labels to compare the sodium content of different brands. Remember that reduced-fat foods, such as low-fat cheese, often have more sodium than the regular versions.  


It just makes sense for all of us seniors to carefully monitor our sodium intake, whether we are at risk for heart disease or not.  Just one more addiction we can live without.

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