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Expert Elder Care Guidance
Expert Elder Care Guidance
My mom’s doctor told her to reduce her sodium intake. What can she do?
If you start reading the labels on food, you may be surprised to learn how much sodium (salt) is hidden in foods that you thought were healthy. People are pretty surprised when they learn that a healthy-looking garden salad topped with low-fat dressing can pack in more salt than the hamburger and french fries you dutifully passed up. Two tablespoons of Zesty Italian dressing contains more than 500 milligrams of sodium—and who uses only 2 tablespoons?
To put this into perspective: experts recommend that we consume only 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, but if you have high blood pressure, your intake should drop down to 1,500 milligrams per day. Sodium is not inherently bad. Our bodies need it to regulate our fluids. However, too much of it can cause body fluids to build up.
Experts figure that Americans consume two to three times the recommended limit. Most of us think if we ditch the table salt and stay clear of food with visible salt on them such as saltine crackers and pretzels, we’re good to go. But processed foods, canned soups, sauces, fast food, spaghetti sauces and salad dressing (even low-fat) can catapult us over the top on the sodium scale. According to Bobbie Mostyn, author of the Pocket Guide to Low Sodium Foods, most of us are unaware of how much salt we actually take in. The burden shouldn’t just be on consumers to detect high sodium amounts; the American Public Health Association is calling on the food industry to cut down on foods with unhealthy levels of sodium.
So, if you’re worried that your parents might be taking in too much salt, here’s what you can do. They should start by analyzing the sodium levels of the foods they already enjoy. If they are too high, search for ways to prepare their favorite dishes in a way that is safer for their health. Expecting older people to dramatically change their eating habits will only set them up for failure.
You also might want to pick up a guide to sodium content, such as Mostyn’s. It’s a fast and easy way to check out sodium levels of fast foods, condiments and restaurant cooking, along with products you buy at the grocery store. You also can check out the author’s website lowsaltfoods.com for all kinds of smart tips on sodium tracking.
How much sodium we take in even with a seemingly healthy salad can be shocking. Our suggestion? Continued to buy the salad, but substitute the dressing. Who knows, your parents might actually enjoy playing “Sodium Sleuth!”
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