Take Control of Your Sodium Intake

— Written By Meghan Lassiter and last updated by
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Sodium is a mineral that is essential to our body’s function. It helps control our body’s fluid balance and it also helps send impulses from our nerves which ultimately affects the way our muscles function (American Heart Association). Sodium can be found naturally in some foods; however, the problem is many of us over consume it. It is important that we take steps to control our sodium because it increases our blood pressure by holding on to excess fluid in the body. This creates an added burden on the heart which may lead to chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

The American Heart Association recommends we limit our sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and 1,500 mg a day for those with high blood pressure. One teaspoon of table salt is equal to about 2,325 mg of sodium.

Here are a few tips to start limiting the amount of added sodium in your diet:

  • Consume less processed food – many processed and packaged foods are high in sodium.
    • Some example of this could be deli meats, frozen meals, cheese products, condiments, canned soups, etc.
  • Check the nutrition fact label to determine if a food is high in sodium.
    • You can determine this by looking at Percent Daily Value (%DV) for sodium on the label, if it lists 20% or more, that food is considered high in sodium.
  • Cook at home and season your foods with herbs or spices that do not have any added salt.
    • Salt is made up of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
  • When eating out at restaurants ask for condiments and salad dressings on the side so you can control the amount you consume.
    • Most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods and restaurant foods.

If you or a community you serve is seeking more information and tips like these on how to prevent or manage chronic disease, then Steps to Health’s nutrition education program could be what you need! Steps to Health is now delivering their adult program, Take Control, online via videos and other resources. Take Control includes eight-sessions that provide adults with strategies to help better manage their health. A nutrition educator will help you focus on how to improve your eating and physical activity patterns through goal setting, planning, tracking, taking action, reflection, and celebrating success. Each 1-hour session includes a basic cooking demonstration, recipes to try at home, nutrition handouts, and an opportunity to engage in physical activity. A nutrition educator will be there to guide you through the program and answer any questions you may have along the way.

A community site must be eligible to receive Steps to Health programming. A site is eligible for Steps to Health adult programming if the site is documented to serve generally low-income people, where at least 50% of people have gross incomes at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Line. Locations that qualify automatically: Public housing developments, congregate nutrition sites, county health department programs like Wise Woman, WIC, JobLink/Work First participants, shelters (homeless or domestic violence), prisoner reintroduction programs with parolees, food pantries, and soup kitchens.

For more information or to sign your site up for the program please contact Sampson County’s Nutrition Educator, Meghan Baker mabaker7@ncsu.edu.

The Steps to Health SNAP-Ed program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Food and Nutrition Service and works in collaboration with the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Social Services.