Since 2008, the health and nutrition world has recognized Salt Awareness Week. This year it is celebrated from Mar 16th – 22nd and healthy children is the theme!
Do we really think that too much salt is a problem for most kids? Do we even pay attention to this issue? Well, probably not. It is worth talking about so we can “be aware and use good judgment” (as I always like to say)! Don’t worry, it won’t be too scary or too complicated …
Let’s cover a few basics and then I’ll tell you about a study that was published in February that looked at sodium intake in kids between 11 and 13 years old, related to the amount they ate on average, the % that came from snack foods and the effect on blood pressure. My previous blog on “Our Love Affair with Salt” was packed with great information.
A few basics in review:
● Salt is simply Sodium Chloride and it is only the sodium that we commonly link to health issues.
● Most of the sodium in our diets comes from added salt, either “in” the product or added at the dinner table.
● The sodium part of a teaspoon of salt equals 2,300mg.
● The average American adult consumes 3,400mg of sodium daily.
● A recent study that included adults in 17 countries found that consuming between 3,000mg and 6,000mg daily showed a lower health risk than those who were higher or lower (and that was a big surprise).
● Low sodium diets are medically recommended for certain heart, kidney and blood pressure issues (less than either 2,100mg or 1,500mg depending on the problem).
There is currently a worldwide effort to reduce the salt in food products to support a goal of 6,000mg/day for the average adult diet (which translates to about 3,500mg of sodium from the salt).
Well, let’s look at the study about kids. Here are the highlights:
● high sodium intake is associated with increased blood pressure in adults and the researchers wanted to see if that also held true for children
● this study looked at boys and girls from 11 to 13 years old
● the average amount of sodium that they consumed was 3,100mg daily and 1,400mg of that came from snack foods
● blood pressure was higher in the children who ate more than 2 salty snacks per day or who were in the group who ate the highest amount of total sodium.
So, salt and sodium has an effect on our children’s blood pressure too! Is that a bad thing? No one knows for sure. It certainly seems reasonable to strive for a total sodium intake that isn’t excessive. If 6,000mg a day is too high for an adult, we could pretty much guess that it would be bad for the kids too! And snacking contributes to almost half of the sodium they eat! We all know that snacking is a way of life for most of us. Salty snacks are satisfying. What to do? Be aware and use good judgment! Just keep an eye of what you feed your kids. Make sure you are getting those fruits and veggies and whole grains (that we always talk about) mixed into the general food plan. For most of our children, and us too, we don’t need to avoid the salty foods and snacks, we need to control the amounts. Salt Awareness Week … OK, thanks for the reminder! Here’s to healthy, happy and active kids!!