Getting older means paying closer attention to our nutrition. By making sure we’re not eating too much (or too little) of certain nutrients, we can maintain health, mobility, and quality of life for a much longer time. When it comes to protein and vitamins, our focus might be on making sure we’re eating enough. However, when it comes to salt, how much we should be eating is a little trickier.
As you’ve probably heard, too much sodium in your diet can be unhealthy—particularly for seniors. The over-consumption of salt is linked to everything from dehydration to high blood pressure and heart problems. Making sure you’re not eating too much salt is an important step when considering your healthy diet.
On the flip side, making sure you’re getting enough salt in your diet is equally important as staying healthy. As we get older, tastes change, and our meal plans can become very routine. Over a long period of time, if your diet doesn’t contain enough salt, it’s possible to develop a sodium deficiency, which is associated with nausea, confusion, extreme tiredness, headaches, and more.
All this means is that there is a sweet spot when it comes to salt, and knowing what’s in your meals is a great place to start. Here’s what you need to know.
What to know about eating too much salt
Food needs seasoning to demonstrate all its flavor—and salt is a big part of it. Yet, oftentimes processed food, pre-packaged and takeout meals go overboard with salt as a cheap and easy way to make their food taste “good.” Even if you enjoy the taste of very salty food, eating it too frequently isn’t good for you.
The short-term symptoms can be benign, but still uncomfortable. For instance, sodium makes us retain water, and eating too much of it can make you feel bloated, and your skin feel puffy. And because salt pulls water out of your cells, it can make you feel thirsty when eaten in large quantities, and over time dehydrate you. Dehydration can be a real concern for seniors, especially those on certain medications, so monitoring your salt intake is extra important.
Over the longer term, excess salt intake is associated with everything from heart failure and stroke to cancer and kidney stones. Prolonged over-consumption can have a very negative impact on anyone’s health.
Sources of excess salt can be sneaky. While everyone knows salty French fries and hamburgers are excessive, canned soup can be extremely high in sodium too. In one half-cup serving of a popular chicken noodle soup brand, there is 480mg of sodium, which is about a third of your entire recommended daily intake. Make sure to check the labels of your food so you can keep tabs on how much you’re consuming.
For seniors who are looking to reduce their salt intake, using a sodium replacement can seem like a good idea. Potassium chloride tastes very similar, but it does not fill the important role sodium plays in your body’s health, and an over reliance on salt replacements can lead to deficiencies. Additionally, because of its high potassium content, this salt replacement can be dangerous to seniors. In our older years, our kidneys become less efficient at processing potassium. A buildup of this mineral can lead to severe heart complications, which makes Potassium chloride a particularly bad salt replacement.
Getting enough salt is still an important part of your diet
On the other hand, making sure you have enough salt in your diet is an important part of your health, just like getting enough protein or vitamin C. Health experts recommend that adults have between 1,500mg and 2,300mg of sodium per day—be sure to speak to your doctor to find what amount of sodium your body needs. Having enough salt is important for maintaining energy levels, cognitive function, and mood.
Having a salt deficiency is called hyponatremia, and it can have very negative health consequences, particularly in seniors, where it is more common than in younger folks. Seniors are more likely to have a sodium deficiency if they’re on medication that makes you urinate more frequently (a diuretic), take certain kinds of antidepressants, or have thyroid conditions. If any of these factors apply to you, keep a close eye on your sodium!
Heart to Home Meals is here to help you manage your sodium intake
At Heart to Home Meals, we’re not simply focused on offering delicious and nutritious meals—we’re also focused on how they can be an important part of your health maintenance. For seniors who are trying to reduce their salt intake, we have a variety of meals that are considered Low Sodium under FDA guidelines, which you can browse here.
Regardless of your specific dietary needs, all of our meals have the nutrition information easily available to help you make a health-conscious choice, while still being able to look forward to your meal.