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Published January 30, 2009, 12:00 AM

Try to moderate salt intake in your diet

“If I don’t get a glass of water, will I survive until morning?” I asked myself sleepily. Despite being incredibly thirsty, I took my chances. Besides, I was too tired to crawl out of a warm bed at 2:30 a.m.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“If I don’t get a glass of water, will I survive until morning?” I asked myself sleepily.

Despite being incredibly thirsty, I took my chances. Besides, I was too tired to crawl out of a warm bed at 2:30 a.m.

At 5:15 a.m., I woke up again, feeling fully dehydrated. I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled my way to our kitchen.

I grabbed the largest cup I could find and drank most of a pot of freshly made coffee. I followed it by drinking a large glass of ice water. I was rummaging around the refrigerator for some pop next.

My husband looked at me strangely.

“What are you doing up at this hour?” he asked, glancing up from reading the newspaper.

Not only was I disturbing his early morning, coffee-drinking quiet time, but I also had drunk all the coffee.

“I’m so thirsty I can’t stand it!” I exclaimed.

“I was pretty thirsty this morning, too,” he said.

I was glad to hear I wasn’t the only thirsty person in our house. Extreme thirst can be a clue that you have untreated diabetes.

“Evidently the pizza we had for dinner was really salty!” I said.

We have been cooking nearly all of our meals at home for many months. We add little, if any, salt as we cook. We put a pepper grinder on the table to add flavor to foods.

As a result, we notice a major difference in “saltiness” of food when we eat processed foods and food from some restaurants.

The preference for salty foods is an acquired taste. Unlike our inborn preference for sweetness, we aren’t born with a “salty tooth.”

We all need some sodium in our diet, but not as much as most people consume. The daily value for sodium from all sources is 2,400 milligrams. That’s about the amount of sodium in one teaspoon of salt, including sodium from processed food and salt you add yourself.

Sodium, along with potassium and chloride, is an electrolyte. Keeping our electrolytes at the proper level is a balancing act.

Sodium plays a major role in moving fluids inside and outside of our cells, in transmitting nerve impulses and relaxing our muscles. Our body tries to rid itself of excess sodium through perspiration or urine.

Our kidneys play a major role in maintaining the proper sodium balance by excreting extra sodium, along with fluid, in the urine. We often feel thirsty as a result.

Most people are well aware of the link between sodium and high blood pressure.

Some people, however, are more sensitive to sodium than others.

Salty foods are all around us, so try these tips to keep your sodium intake in check:

- Read Nutrition Facts labels to compare the sodium content of various foods, especially convenience foods, soups and snacks.

- Choose fresh poultry, fish and lean meat instead of highly processed types.

- Cook pasta, hot cereal and rice without added salt.

- Reduce the amount of salt you add to foods. Use herbs, spices and salt-free seasoning blends at the table and in cooking.

Here is a recipe from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a heart-healthy treat.


Oatmeal Cookies

¾ cup sugar

2 tbsp. margarine

1 egg

¼ cup applesauce

2 tbsp. low-fat milk

1 cup flour

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. quick-rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease cookie sheets. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to mix sugar and margarine. Mix until well blended, about three minutes. Slowly add egg; mix on medium speed one minute. Gradually add applesauce and milk. Mix on medium speed for one minute.

Scrape sides of bowl. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

Slowly add to applesauce mixture; mix on low speed until blended, about two minutes. Add oats and blend 30 seconds on low speed. Scrape sides of bowl. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, about 13 minutes. Remove from baking sheet onto wire rack while still warm.

Makes eight servings (two cookies per serving). Each serving has 180 calories, 34 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 4.5 g of fat, 1 g of fiber and 85 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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