Women, more often than men, fall prey to salt and sugar cravings. This may be due to hormonal changes or to the fact that women have a tendency to skip meals like breakfast, according to registered dietitian Samara Felesky-Hunt. The next time you reach for a salty afternoon snack, think about the impact it can have on your health. Table salt consists of 40 percent sodium, a mineral your body needs to balance fluids, transmit nerve signals and promote muscle function, but consuming too much increases your risk for high blood pressure. The recommended daily intake of sodium varies depending on your age, ethnicity and health.
In today’s hustle and bustle world, women juggle the responsibilities of work and home. Gone are the days of preparing and eating leisurely dinners together as a family. Women seek out meals that are quick and easy to prepare, or they opt to eat on the go, which means frequenting fast food establishments. A diet full of processed foods and foods prepared in restaurants provides an average sodium intake considerably higher than the recommendation. In fact, the average American consumes 3,436 milligrams of sodium per day, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The human body requires between 180 and 500 milligrams of sodium per day to support daily functions. Your body loses sodium through perspiration, and the kidneys naturally filter excess sodium from the blood to the urine. For these reasons, The Institute of Medicine sets the adequate intake, the amount of the nutrient expected to meet or exceed the needs for the majority of healthy people within a specific life-stage and gender group, higher than the amount the body requires. Women ages 14 to 50 should consume 1,500 milligrams a day, women ages 51 to 70 need 1,300 milligrams and women over 70 require 1,200 milligrams.
Tolerable Upper Level Intake
For those who consume closer to the average daily intake of more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, cutting consumption to 1,500 milligrams seems like a daunting task. The good news is that the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans specify that only certain people, including those over 51 years of age or of African American decent and those with hypertension, diabetes or kidney disease, need to limit their intake to 1,500 milligrams or less per day. All others can consume up to the tolerable upper intake level set at 2,300 milligrams per day. The tolerable upper intake level represents the highest amount of the nutrient likely to pose no adverse effects.
Cut the Salt
Many foods, including fruits and vegetables, naturally contain sodium. Salting food while cooking or at the table also contributes to your intake because 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,000 milligrams of sodium. The major culprit of excess sodium, however, is hidden in the box, can or frozen food that you reach for when preparing that quick meal. If you need to get a handle on your daily intake of sodium, start by reading the nutrition labels on the foods you purchase. Look for ingredients like monosodium glutamate, baking soda, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate and sodium nitrate. Also, beware about claims on packages, because the ones that claim reduced sodium contain 25 percent less than the regular version, which can still be a lot of sodium.
- Mayo Clinic: Sodium – How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Americans Consume Too Much Sodium
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes
- US Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Colorado State University: Sodium in the Diet
- Women’s Health USA: Nutrition
- Samara Felesky-Hunt, Registered Dietitian: Taking a Bite out of Cravings
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: Snacking behaviors of adolescents and their association with skipping meals
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