Researchers are divided about the reasons humans find the taste of salt pleasurable. Some believe that salt dates to our early survival instincts and allowed us to identify food that contained sodium because sodium intake was critical to survival.
Others believe that it is a taste we acquire and that our salt threshold is raised the more one is exposed to salt. While others suspect salt cravings start in the womb when a mother has intense morning sickness that depletes mother and baby of sodium.
Regardless of the precursors to our salt cravings, human like the taste of salt and manufacturers have capitalized on that fact by loading prepared foods with sodium. Not only does sodium make foods taste good, is allows for a longer shelf for products that now top $1 trillion per year in grocery sales in the United States. Consumers can choose from some 60,000 processed foods in the supermarket.
This magnificent smorgasbord of engineered foods has greatly contributed to the fact that one in five kids and one in three adults is considered clinically obese, while 24 million Americans are afflicted by type 2 diabetes, with an additional 79 million in the pre-diabetic phase.
These numbers are staggering and are serious health concerns. Food manufacturers have succeeded in getting our populace hooked on excessive sodium, fat, and sugar consumption, because these ingredients make foods taste great.
Obviously, the increase in pre-packaged goods is precipitated by two working parents in each family. Cooking at home meals, which was the norm in past generations, has become a rarity. What and how we eat as a nation has changed. So, if you depend upon processed foods, those products will be the biggest contributors to your consumption of sodium.
Despite the fact sodium is important to our health, too much sodium is dangerous. The exact amount of sodium varies with each individual; however, most people only need 500 mg of sodium each day to maintain bodily functions. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg. of sodium a day; however, the current national daily average is about 3,400 mg.
So what happens to all of this excess sodium?
Over time, the cumulative effects of excessive sodium have devastating health consequences. When sodium levels are too high, the body reacts through the kidneys, which regulates the level of fluid in the body and flushes away the excess sodium in urine. If the kidneys cannot keep pace with the amount of sodium coming into the body, it tries to dilute the sodium by retaining water. This leaches water out of the cells into the bloodstream, increasing the volume of fluid in circulation. When blood volume increases, your heart must work harder to pump blood, resulting in higher blood pressure than can stiffen and damage blood vessels and put other body systems under stress.
If you are discounting these facts thinking high levels of sodium don’t affect you.
This is everyone’s problem. It’s not just for old people anymore!
- The most important thing to learn about sodium is the fact you can control it. You are the one who determines what you prepare and put into your mouth and your family’s mouths.
- You don’t have to make changes all at once. But begin by educating yourself about the facts.
- Determine how much sodium is in the foods you typically eat and substitute with Engage Organics Salt-free Seasonings
- Identify the pitfalls and rethink how you can begin eliminating the saboteurs.
- Swap out the high sodium items you use at home and buy low-sodium alternatives
- Learn the sodium levels of the typical restaurant foods you order. Be aware of what you are eating. Ask yourself– Is the dish really worth two day’s sodium intake?
- Make healthier food choices by adding more fruits and veggies.
- Plan meals ahead. See our rotisserie chicken ideas that yield a whole week’s worth of menus that are healthy and low sodium, but mimic those choices your family typically opts for in restaurants.