Like many moms, you may rely on frozen dinners and canned soups to get you through your busiest days. Such high-sodium fare can be harmful to your health, however, and could contribute to dangerous illnesses. The Adequate Intake level of sodium is just 1,500 milligrams per day for most healthy people, but the average American older than 2 years gets more than 3,400 milligrams per day.
High Blood Pressure
For most people, the greatest threat of excess sodium is high blood pressure, which is linked to the No. 1 cause of death in the United States -- heart disease. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that if all Americans reduced sodium intake to healthy levels, thousands of lives would be spared each year. To help reduce risk of high blood pressure as well as other sodium-related conditions, the CDC recommends getting no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, or no more than 1,500 milligrams per day if you're older than 50 or have any heart-disease risk factors.
One of the peskier effects of high sodium intake is water retention, which can make you weigh several pounds more than normal. Although your body needs sodium for proper fluid regulation, too much of it causes cells to retain excess water. An extra 400 milligrams of sodium, contained in about 1 gram of table salt, can make you pack on 2 pounds of temporary fluid weight, according to Dr. Jack D. Osman of the health science department at Towson University.
Women, in particular, should be concerned about sodium intake because excess levels could increase the risk of osteoporosis, to which females are more prone. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and weak due to demineralization. High sodium intake may contribute to bone calcium loss by causing you to excrete more of the mineral through urine, and the Colorado State University Extension reports that even women who consume enough calcium through their diets may be at risk.
The primary reason most Americans get too much sodium is reliance on packaged foods, according to the CDC. Therefore, the most effective way to reduce sodium in your diet is to avoid eating out and to choose whole foods rather than preserved goods. For example, canned, stewed tomatoes contain 564 milligrams of sodium per cup while 1 cup of fresh tomatoes contains just 9 milligrams. Similarly, 1 cup of canned, refried beans contains 1,131 milligrams of sodium while 1 cup of pinto beans boiled from the bag has just 2 milligrams. By eating food in its least-processed form, you'll find it far easier to stay within recommended sodium levels.