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Ways to Limit Sodium and Improve Heart Health

February 01, 2020

One in 10 cardiovascular deaths worldwide has been attributed to consuming too much sodium. High sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure, kidney damage, and weight gain.

Where do Americans get their sodium from?

According the American Heart Association, on average, Americans consume 3,440 mg of sodium per day. Only a small amount of total sodium intake comes from sodium naturally occurring in foods or from salt added in home cooking, or at the table.

More than SEVENTY percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods.

Mixed dishes including burgers, sandwiches, and tacos; rice, pasta, and grain dishes; pizza; meat, poultry, and seafood dishes; and soups account for almost half of the sodium consumed in the U.S. These foods are often commercially processed or prepared.

How to Limit Sodium

Sodium is a preservative. All packaged foods, including snack foods, frozen meals, instant foods, etc. have extra sodium. Restaurant foods and fast foods also have an excessive amount of sodium. Limit eating out and eat as many home-cooked meals as possible.

Reminders for limiting sodium include:

  • Limit packaged processed foods.
  • Don’t keep salt on the dining table.
  • Eat pickles and other salty foods in moderation.

6 Tips for Heart Health

#1 – Choose Healthy Fats.

The type and quantity of fat in your diet is a very important factor for heart health. In general, aim to eat a low fat diet.

  • Unsaturated Fats – the good fats: nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, oils.
  • Saturated Fats – the bad fats: fats present in animal foods such as meats and dairy, including cheese.
  • Trans Fats – the ugly fats! Trans fats are found in form of vegetable shortening or partially hydrogenated oils and palm oils. Trans fats are used as a preservative in mostly all snack foods, ready to eat foods, and fast foods.

#2 – Choose Healthy Carbohydrates.

Simple starches and sugars can raise triglycerides, increase insulin resistance, and thus increase the risk of heart disease.

Choose whole grains. Choose brown rice and other whole grains including whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, barley, oats, quinoa, whole grain bread and pasta.

#3 – Don’t Overdo Protein.

Excessive protein from animal sources has been proven to increase the risk of heart attacks.

This includes, meat, dairy, and eggs, and whey protein powders. Overdoing protein can also damage kidneys. Choose small quantities of lean protein, and avoid red and processed meats.

Choose plant proteins such as beans, peas, lentils, and tofu at least 1-2 times per week.

#4 – Drink Water.

Adequate amount of water is important a number of reasons.

Avoid other beverages such as soda, juice, Gatorade, Kool-Aid, and other sugary drinks. Avoid their diet versions also.

#5 – Exercise.

Daily physical activity has protective influence on the heart.

You do not have to join a gym. Make a resolution to move more.

#6 – Reduce Stress and Anger.

Stress and negative emotions such as anger have a negative effect on heart health.

These conditions can increase inflammatory hormones and start a chain reaction that can lead to a heart attack. Adopt stress relieving habits such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, massage, etc.


About Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN

Parul is a Clinical Dietitian in Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Cary Hospital. For information related to diet and nutrition, or to speak to one of our licensed, registered dietitians, contact Outpatient Nutrition Services today. Insurance coverage and costs may vary.


Celebrate American Heart Month

Each February during American Heart Month, the WakeMed Heart Center takes the opportunity to step out and share the importance of taking care of your heart.

Whether it’s undergoing a procedure, learning about risk factors for heart disease, considering healthier eating options or putting your best foot forward on the treadmill, your health is close to our hearts.

Learn more about heart-related events that are taking place. Get daily tips on how to live life young at heart. And learn about better nutrition for better heart health.