Everyone understands that people with diabetes must monitor their carbohydrate intake throughout the day, but not everyone understands that they must also monitor their salt intake.
The average American consumes far too much sodium, up to 3,400 mg of sodium per day, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
So, how much salt should you consume? This article will discuss how much salt diabetics should have in their diets, the dangers of eating too much salt, and how to help lower your daily salt intake to improve your health.
What exactly is the problem with salt?
A moderate amount of salt (and the iodine that is added to most table salt in the United States) is required for the body to function properly.
Humans require a minimum of 500 mg of sodium per day for normal bodily functions such as electrolyte balance, blood pressure maintenance, and nerve and muscle function.
Excess salt consumption, on the other hand, can be harmful to one's health. Eating too much salt not only raises blood pressure, but diets high in sodium content can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke, two conditions that diabetics are already predisposed to.
Sodium naturally absorbs water, and when consumed as part of a high-sodium diet, it draws water into the bloodstream, increasing blood volume and thus blood pressure.
If high blood pressure becomes chronic, it can progress to the medical condition known as hypertension. When a person has hypertension, their heart has to work extra hard to pump blood around their body, which can damage vital organs such as the brain, eyes, kidneys, and, of course, the heart.
People who have hypertension are more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and failure, and blindness over time. When combined with a diabetes diagnosis, it has the potential to be fatal.
Excess salt in the diet can cause dehydration, which can lead to more difficult-to-manage blood sugars, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis over time, even if people with diabetes do not have hypertension.
What are the main sources of sodium excess?
Contrary to popular belief, excess sodium in most people's diets is not caused by the table salt in the middle of the dinner table.
Fast-food restaurants and packaged foods account for 70% of dietary sodium. This varies greatly depending on the type of packaged food, serving size, and so on, but it is something to keep an eye out for when not cooking at home. Excess sodium can be obtained from a variety of sources, including:
- Pasta dishes
- Potato chips
- Tortilla chips
- Deli meats
- Pork rinds
- Fried chicken
- French fries
- Anything with savory sauces added
How much salt should you consume per day?
The FDA recommends that most Americans consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon), while the American Heart Association recommends that people consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Furthermore, the American Heart Association advises people with health conditions such as hypertension or heart disease to limit their sodium intake to 1,000 mg per day.
People with diabetes must exercise extra caution to avoid eating too much salt, whether or not they have pre-existing heart disease or hypertension, because diabetes puts them at an increased risk of these complications.
However, everyone's goals are different, and some people may require more sodium on occasion.
Athletes and people who drink a lot of water may need extra salt (especially during physical activity on hot days), and people who sweat a lot may need extra salt to balance out their electrolytes.
People who take diuretics under the supervision of their doctor, as well as those who eat mostly unprocessed, whole foods, may require more sodium in their diets (where salt is not an added ingredient).
Always consult your doctor about your lifestyle and health goals to determine the appropriate amount of sodium you need each day.
Simple methods for lowering sodium consumption
If you are consuming more sodium than your health team recommends, there are some simple ways to reduce your daily sodium consumption.
Prepare your own meals and snacks at home.
Batch cooking and packing your own breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks will greatly reduce the number of meals you eat out at restaurants and fast-food establishments, thereby greatly reducing your sodium intake, because you have complete control over the amount of added sodium you put in home-cooked food.
Concentrate on whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to reduce your sodium intake!
Instead of salt, use herbs and spices.
Simply seasoning your food with salt and pepper is out, and flavorful herbs and spices like garlic, onion, cumin, turmeric, curry, cilantro, parsley, and paprika are in!
You won't miss the sodium if you add a burst of brightness to your meals.
Examine nutrition labels
Spend more time studying nutrition labels on any packaged foods you eat, and try to stay within a total of the 2,300 mg limit for the day, or simply notice how far above or below you land.
Simply being aware of your sodium intake throughout the day can help you limit or eliminate foods that contain far too much sodium.
Choose salt-free or low-sodium foods.
Choosing salt-free or reduced-sodium versions of your favorite foods, such as nuts, chips, canned beans, canned vegetables, breads, tomato sauces, and soups, can help you significantly reduce the amount of sodium in your diet without completely eliminating the foods you enjoy.
These options are becoming more widely available in grocery stores, so keep an eye out for sodium-free or low-sodium versions of your favorite foods.
Reduce the size of your portions.
Sometimes it's as simple as eating less food to get less sodium. If you go out to lunch, cut your sandwich in half, and you've effectively cut your sodium intake for that meal in half.
Choose smaller portions of foods like pizza and pasta (or order an appetizer as your entree when dining out), and you'll likely reduce your sodium intake by hundreds of milligrams per day.
Rethink your condiments.
Popular condiments such as soy sauce, fish and prawn sauce, salsa, hot sauce, and prepackaged salad dressings contain a lot of sodium.
For a sodium-free addition, make your own salad dressing at home with lemon or lime juice, black pepper, and olive oil, or add fresh herbs and spices to your dishes with a hint of extra virgin olive oil for a zing without the salt!
Get the assistance you require.
Having the support of family and friends can be extremely beneficial when attempting to reduce your sodium intake.
Collaborate on fun, low-sodium recipes, or host a potluck dinner with everyone bringing a new, sodium-free dish to share.
Avoid daily fast-food runs and weekly dinner dates at restaurants in favor of more meals at home with your loved ones, where you can work together to achieve your health goals. There is no need for sodium!