It seems like we’re always trying to figure out how to live forever (or at least into our 100s). One of the proven ways your longevity is affected has to do with what you put in your body. When it comes to the health of your body, you always want to make sure you’re drinking the right drinks and eating the right foods. Whether you currently suffer from an illness, are at risk of developing one, or simply want to ensure your body stays in tip-top shape, keeping your body in check is important to living a longer, healthier life.
As important as it is to watch what you put in your body, you may also not realize the little habits you have that can contribute to poor health and essentially shorten your life. According to a recent study published in European Society of Cardiology, people who add extra salt to their food while sitting at the table are at greater risk of premature death from any cause.
Around 501,379 people took part in the UK Biobank study between 2006 and 2010. Participants were asked with a questionnaire if they added salt to their food. The options were either never/rarely, sometimes, usually, always, the I prefer not to answer. Those who chose not to answer were not included in the analysis.
The researchers took into account other factors that could affect the results. This included age, gender, race, deprivation, body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and diet. They also took into account any medical conditions the participants might have.
The study defined premature death as death before age 75. After following the participants for about nine years, the research showed that compared to those who never or rarely added salt, Those who always added salt to their food had a 28% increased risk of premature death.
In addition, the study suggested that there was a lower life expectancy among participants who always added salt. At age 50, women’s life expectancy dropped by an average of 1.5 years. For men, it was 2.28 years.
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The salt shaker isn’t the only source of sodium to watch out for
“This epidemiological study is the first of its kind to look at the relationship between the table salt shaker and how often people use it,” he shares. Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Diabetes Cookbook Create Your Plate Meal Prep.
According to Amidor, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 reveal that, on average, Americans consume 3,393 milligrams of sodium per day. Meanwhile, the recommended limit is 2,300 milligrams. He also shares that the top sources of sodium in the diet are not from the salt shaker. Instead, it’s sandwiches (21%), rice, pasta and other grain-based dishes (8%).
“Adding table salt is not really the main source of where our sodium comes from,” Amidor says.
How to reduce sodium intake
While the salt shaker may not be the main culprit, she still advises to be careful how much you add.
“However, as a registered dietitian, I advise against using the salt shaker before tasting your food to check if you really need it,” he says.
In addition, Amidor recommends buying canned foods with no added salt or low sodium.
“Research also reveals that up to 40% of sodium is removed when we rinse canned beans with water,” he says. “There are also techniques for cooking at home that help reduce sodium. Like using low-sodium chicken broth and reduced-sodium or light soy sauce.”
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She also advises that when eating out, be aware that most dishes are extremely high in sodium. It suggests that many contain at least 75% of the daily recommended sodium intake. Therefore, eating out less often or using the nutrition facts table in a store where it is available can certainly help.
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“As a society, we consume too much sodium,” says Amidor. “Watching your salt shaker is certainly one method to help reduce consumption. However, there are more common sources of our sodium that shouldn’t be skipped when trying to change your sodium habits.”