Salt is 40 percent sodium, an essential mineral. Although sodium helps regulate blood pressure and blood volume, you need only small amounts daily to support these functions. Too much sodium can raise a woman’s blood pressure, cause bloating and negatively affect sufferers of kidney disease or diabetes. Most women should limit the amount of salt consumed daily to stay healthy.
Daily sodium intake should be less than 2,300 mg, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010 Dietary Guidelines. This is equal to about 6 g of salt, or 1 tsp., daily. If you are African-American or have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease you should limit sodium even further -- to about 1,500 mg per day, or about 2/3 tsp. of salt. Women over age 51 should also limit sodium to 1,500 mg daily. The average woman consumes between 2,300 and 3,100 mg of sodium, well above recommendations, notes the Colorado University State Extension.
Table salt is not the only source of sodium. Processed foods, particularly canned soups, cheese, frozen dinners, restaurant food, salad dressings and breads, contain significant added sodium. Learn to read food labels to keep your sodium intake in check. Certain foods naturally contain sodium. These include milk, beets and celery.
Reducing Your Intake
To keep your salt intake to a minimum, cook at home with fresh, whole foods more often. Make your own salad dressings with a flavorful balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs and olive oil so you need less salt. Season poultry and fish with a squeeze of citrus and pungent spices such as chili powder, cumin or cayenne. Add no-salt seasonings such as lemon pepper to lean cuts of beef. Top steamed vegetables with fresh basil or cilantro. Rinse canned beans before adding them to recipes and look for no-sodium added canned goods.
Even if you choose gourmet salts, such as sea salt or pink salt, remember it is still a source of sodium. Limiting sodium may not be necessary for all women. The Harvard Medical School notes that if you are under age 50, have a healthy blood pressure and are in good health, you may not have to worry too much about salt intake. Seek guidance from your health provider regarding your personal salt intake.
- Colorado State University Extension; Sodium in the Diet; J. Anderson, et al.; June 2011
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dietary Guidelines for Americans; Executive Summary; 2010
- Harvard Health Publications; Watching Daily Sodium Intake is Important for Some; November 2006
- Medline Plus: Sodium in the Diet
- Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure: Reduce Salt and Sodium in Your Diet