American women suffer strokes now more than ever, and high sodium foods are one of the number one risks and causes of having a stroke, even at an early age. There are many simple lifestyle choices one can do to prevent having a stroke, including stress management approaches like yoga, walking, quiet time and reducing excess hours working. Yet, diet choices are one of the top most effective ways to reduce your stroke risks, all by avoiding certain high sodium foods. The recommended sodium amounts for the day are anywhere from 1000-2500 milligrams, and anything above 2500 milligrams can cause a person many health issues, including high blood pressure that leads to a risk for a stroke. Considering there are 2400 milligrams in just one teaspoon of salt, you can see how easy it is to overdo your salt intake for the day, especially if you choose processed foods. To reduce your risk for a stroke, try to eat less of these high sodium foods below and include more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fat free, plain yogurt, whole grains and unprocessed foods . Your taste buds will adjust over time, I promise!
1. Processed Lunch Meat
Let’s just start with one of the worst high sodium foods, shall we? Not only are lunch meats and other processed meats high in sodium, but they’re also high in preservatives, one being salt. They’re one of the top foods to avoid for stroke, high blood pressure and weight gain. Many of the additives have even been linked to digestive disorders and headaches, so buy your meat fresh whenever you can for the healthiest choice.
2. Processed Cheese
Cheese is not only high in animal saturated fat, which can cause a stroke risk on its own, but processed cheese is also high in sodium, as even many natural cheeses are. Some of the cheese varieties that are lowest in fat are unfortunately the highest in sodium, such as Parmesan. If you love that cheesy taste but don’t want the unhealthy benefits of cheese, try sprinkling nutritional yeast on your foods, or making a cheese sauce with nutritional yeast and almond milk. It tastes exactly like cheese, but is rich in B vitamins and potassium that can actually help fight stroke risk.
3. Canned Vegetables
I know what you’re thinking, right? Canned veggies are bad for you now? Don’t worry- just the regular varieties are the ones I’m referring to. Most canned vegetables have added salt as a natural preservative. Most have at least 350 mg per ½ cup. I don’t know about you, but I love canned veggies and always eat more than this amount. So, the easy solution is to just buy the unsalted varieties, which are plentiful these days. I love no salt added fire roasted canned tomatoes, no salt added green beans and also choose to buy frozen artichoke hearts instead of canned to avoid the sodium. It’s quite easy to navigate the canned veggie aisle if you just stick to no salt added varieties, or buy their frozen counterparts.
Popcorn is another top food to avoid because it's high in sodium. Unless you buy your own kernels or buy unsalted, almost all popcorn products are extremely high in sodium. Try to purchase your own kernels and pop them in a brown paper bag in the microwave instead! Or, for an even healthier option, pop it on the stove top instead.
Crackers are a very processed food for the most part, meaning they’re high in salt. If you like crackers, choose some of the healthier varieties like Mary’s Gone Crackers, which are very low in sodium per serving and even contain whole grains and seeds with no flour whatsoever. They’re also gluten-free to boot!
Chips are another processed food that contribute to stroke risks and one of the worst high sodium foods to eat if you’re at risk already. Chips are hard to stop eating, yet the serving size is so small to begin with, it’s easy to eat 3-4 servings and already be over the daily allowance of sodium. Instead of chips, try almonds and carrots. They are the perfect pairing for crunchy and sweet. Try to buy unsalted almonds though, since salted almonds are also very high in sodium.
7. Frozen Meals
I know many people buy frozen dinners, especially frozen diet meals, and think they’re eating a health food. Let me share with you a little bitty secret- these are some of the worst foods in the whole grocery store you could be eating. They are high in not only salt, but tons of preservatives, strange additives and they don’t have enough nutrients to fill you up to save their life- or yours! The only exception is plain frozen fruits, frozen vegetables and some healthier brands that have no added sodium, preservatives, unhealthy fats, etc. Some examples include Van’s frozen waffles, Ezekiel sprouted grain bread and some non-dairy sources of ice cream, but most ice creams are also high in processed fat that puts you at risk for stroke.
The simple way to avoid eating your way to a stroke by eating high sodium foods is to simply check the label of your foods and read the sodium amount. First, look at the amount of sodium, and then skim up top to the serving size. There should never be more than 100 mg in any processed food per ¼ cup serving at most. If you buy nutritional bars, which are also high in sodium unless they’re raw, then they should have no more than 200 mg. per bar and less than 5 grams of sugar. What foods do you eat that are high in sodium?