There's nothing better than the delicious convenience of Chinese takeout after a long day at work or school, when the task of whipping up a meal is a burden too heavy to carry. Unfortunately, most Chinese fast food restaurants are doling out extra servings of an ingredient that could eventually cause major health concerns for those who order regularly: sodium.
Though the Food and Drug Administration suggests Americans can eat up to 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, most healthy estimates average daily intake at 2,300 milligrams — those sensitive to sodium should really only consume roughly 1,500 milligrams each day.
Meanwhile, the average amount of sodium found in a carton of Chinese food sits at a whopping 2,348 milligrams, according to the United States department of agriculture.
"One order of General Tso's chicken, or approximately 2.3 cups, has 2,327 milligrams of sodium — your total sodium intake for a day," Livestrong reported in 2014. "Although vegetables typically have less sodium than other foods, ordering a vegetarian dish is still no way to guarantee you can reduce the sodium content of your meal. One order of vegetable chow mein, or 3.3 cups, has 2,673 milligrams of sodium."
Unfortunately, the consequences of consuming too much sodium over the course of one's life could be devastating to overall health and wellbeing.
"In most people, the kidneys have trouble keeping up with the excess sodium in the bloodstream," Harvard's School of Public Health noted in a report about excess sodium's health risks and diseases. "As sodium accumulates, the body holds onto water to dilute the sodium. This increases both the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream. Increased blood volume means more work for the heart and more pressure on blood vessels. Over time, the extra work and pressure can stiffen blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke. It can also lead to heart failure. There is also some evidence that too much salt can damage the heart, aorta, and kidneys without increasing blood pressure, and that it may be bad for bones, too."
Luckily, there are ways to avoid the high sodium of Chinese food while still being able to enjoy the quick and easy deliciousness every once in awhile.
"If you replace one cup of wonton soup with one spring roll, you will get 300 milligrams of sodium instead of 905," Livestrong reported. "Although lemon chicken is considered a high-sodium food at 700 milligrams per serving, ordering it in place of chicken chow mein with crispy noodles will reduce your sodium intake by 1,800 milligrams. Look for dishes made with steamed vegetables, or ask the chef to use less sauce when preparing your meal. Order condiments on the side instead of pouring them directly on your food."