According to the Centers for Disease Control, 89% of Americans consume more than the recommended amount of sodium in their daily diet! Wow! How can this be? Why is this a problem?

We’ll start with why it’s a problem. Your body uses sodium to control the way water is distributed throughout the body. The more sodium in your bloodstream, the more water your body will retain. As the amount of water increases so does your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke or heart attack. Clearly, if you can reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack it’s worth giving it a try!

How can 89% of Americans consume too much sodium? The answer to that lies in the primary source of sodium in our diet: Salt – sodium chloride. Processed foods such as spaghetti sauce, ramen noodles, corn chips, and fast food contain surprising amounts of salt. As we have become more concerned with the amount of fat in our foods, manufacturers have responded by making more low-fat foods. To enhance the flavor of these foods, food producers have increased the amount of sugar and salt. One issue has been addressed but this has created other problems.

How can I know how much sodium I’m consuming in a day? This will take some detective work! Take a look at the nutrition label (I know, you might have to get out the reading glasses!). Food producers are required to list the amount of sodium in the average serving in both milligrams and the percentage of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). It’s recommended that you limit your sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams a day.

The easiest way to grocery shop with sodium in mind is to shop from the outside aisles – produce, meats, and dairy. Even with this abbreviated trip through the store, you will have to exercise some caution in the deli and cheese sections. When shopping in the other aisles of the store, try to find foods that have no more than 5% of RDA per serving.

Cooking at home will allow you to control the amount of salt. Here’s a recipe from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to get you started.

16 small new potatoes (5 cups)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dill weed, dried<
• Thoroughly clean potatoes with vegetable brush and water.
• Boil potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender.
• Drain and cool potatoes for 20 minutes.
• Cut potatoes into quarters and mix with olive oil, onions, and spices.
• Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 5 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup
Per Serving: Calories: 196; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 17 mg; Protein: 4g; Carbohydrate: 34 g; Calcium: 31 mg; Magnesium: 46 mg; Potassium: 861 mg; Fiber: 4g


Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for over seven years.