You’ve heard it before perhaps from your doctor or reading about it in an article – consume less salt in your diet. Why is salt supposed to be shunned? It’s not exactly that we should shun it completely as the human body does need a certain amount of the mineral sodium that salt is partly composed of. Sodium actually has many functions from maintaining the body’s fluid and electrolyte and acid-base balance to aiding with contraction of our muscles and with nerve transmission.
But most of us are getting in much more salt than what our bodies need and this can result in increased blood pressure putting you at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The current dietary guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend reducing sodium to 1,500 milligrams each day and not to exceed 2,300 milligrams each day. Unfortunately, most Americans are exceeding this recommendation by averaging about 3,400 milligrams a day.
It would be in the best interest of all of us to pay attention to our sodium intake more closely. There are many ways we can reduce our intake of salt without compromising the taste of our food. Here’s 10 tips easy to implement you can start today:
1. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as they are naturally low in sodium. Canned fruits will be low in salt but canned vegetables will contain a fair amount more. Canned vegetables should be drained in a colander and then rinsed well with cool water to wash away up to 40% of the salt content.
2. Select spices or seasonings that do not list salt on their labels. An example would be using garlic powder or garlic salt.
3. Read food labels checking the sodium content. Choose foods with no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving size.
4. Hidden salt may be lurking in foods you wouldn’t think are that high in it – frozen pizza, frozen TV dinners, ketchup, white bread, processed cheese, hot dogs, ham, cottage cheese, cooked rice and flour tortillas. Sodium is often used as a preservative as well as for flavoring.
5. Teach your taste buds to like a less salty taste. Make gradual changes over time to train your sense of taste to enjoy foods with less salt. Once you’ve accomplished that, eating a food such as potato chips will taste overly salty.
6. Restaurant foods are often swimming in salt. It’s not uncommon for some chain and restaurant food items to top 5,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per serving. Skip large portion sizes or share a meal with someone else. If the restaurant has a website with nutrition information on it, browse it before going to choose lower-sodium choices or ask the restaurant to prepare your dish with less salt.
7. Use fresh instead of packaged meats. Fresh cuts of beef, chicken or port contain natural sodium but the content is much less than the hidden extra sodium added during processing in products like bacon, sausage, or ham. Another tip off as to whether the food as a lot of salt is if the food item can be kept in the fridge for many weeks.
8. Be careful of the ready mixed herbs and spices in items such as Cajun mixes as these can be high in salt.
9. Avoid adding salt during cooking. Make use of herbs and spices to season foods.
10. Cut back on sauces such as soy sauce, BBQ sauce, brown sauce, and salad dressings as these can be high in salt.