The amount of salt intake for Americans is astronomical each day without even picking up a salt shaker. In our current society, it is especially easy to overdo this due to so many highly processed, pre-packaged foods, and how much is eaten from drive-thrus and restaurants. The average American consumes roughly 3,500 milligrams of sodium every day according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it is recommended to keep sodium intake between 1,500 and 2,300 milligrams a day. This provides a lower risk for high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. There are a few ways to manage sodium intake — from what type of salt is used to how it is used; because despite all of the negatives, sodium is actually necessary for the body to function at its best.
The correct amount of sodium helps maintain the balance of fluids in the body and is also a huge factor in muscle function. Sodium makes sweat possible which is what allows the body to cool down avoiding dehydration and heat stroke. If enough salt is not consumed, things such as muscle spasms, irregular heart rhythms, and general weakness can occur. Moderation is key when it comes to salt intake.
Cooking at home the majority of the time makes it easier to achieve moderation. Using all natural, fresh whole foods in cooking and truly embrace cooking from “scratch,” gives total control over what goes in the body. There is no need to sacrifice the flavor of salt and how it enriches the taste of food which is so enjoyable, but it is important to make the best choice in the quality of salt used in order to get the most benefit possible.
There are many different salts that have high mineral content and reduced sodium content, but when taking availability and cost into consideration, I recommend pink sea salt. By using pink sea salt instead of the many other varieties available, especially traditional table salt, it will greatly decrease the sodium while still achieving the flavor. Pink sea salt is extremely rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It also contains trace amounts of copper, iodine, zinc and selenium. These minerals all benefit the body, in addition to the sodium. Pink sea salt can be found at most any grocery store now and comes in a variety of forms from large blocks to be grated at use, to smaller coarse grains, and fine granules. All shapes and sizes have the same benefits; it is just personal preference as to what is used.
Another way to cut back on salt and not sacrifice flavor is to use more fresh herbs and spices. Herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, black pepper, and oregano have great antioxidants, which is an added bonus. It is best to avoid prepackaged seasoning mixes as they tend to have added sodium and preservatives. Get creative and really enjoy the simplicity of using herbs and all natural, whole foods when cooking. Try new combinations and think outside the box. Healthy food does not have to be bland or boring!
By: Nick Thomas
Owner of Prime Performance Training, and Certified Sports Nutritionist