There’s good reason to trim salt from your diet. Excess sodium is linked to rising blood pressure and risks of heart attack, stoke, heart failure, and stomach cancer. Eating too much sodium may also raise your chances of developing osteoporosis and kidney stones. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we consume, on average, more than 3400 mg of sodium per day, but should reduce intake to no more than 2300 mg.
Some health-minded people keep the saltshaker off the table, but it will probably take additional effort to get sodium intake down to recommended levels. That’s because a mere 11 percent of our sodium comes from salt added during cooking or at the table. A whopping 77 percent of our sodium intake comes from packaged foods and restaurant items. So what’s a salt savvy person to do? Here are 4 smart strategies to lower sodium intake.
1. Don’t rely on taste. You may be tempted to let taste guide your decisions about the saltiness of foods. That will be a big mistake. Could you guess that a serving of instant chocolate pudding has more than twice the sodium of an ounce of salted nuts? Foods taste saltier when the salt is on the outside such as with salted nuts and pretzels. However, less salty-tasting breads and cooked dishes, for example, may actually have more sodium. Sweet taste may also mask salty flavor. Check out the sodium surprises below.
2. Look for lower sodium versions of the Salty Six. According to the American Heart Association, six foods contribute the most sodium to our diets. They are not the saltiest foods, but since they are so common in the diet, they provide significant amounts of sodium. Choose brands with less sodium.
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
3. Prepare more foods at home. This one is a no-brainer. It’s in your own kitchen where you have the most control.
4. Use packaged foods wisely. Instead of cooking everything from scratch, employ a few sodium-saving strategies such as these.
- Choose low-sodium and reduced-sodium packaged foods.
- Mix a low-sodium option with a regular option. For example, mix a can of low-sodium tomatoes with a can of regular tomato sauce.
- Use only half of a seasoning packet. It’s simple to mix your own herbs and spices to flavor your foods, but if you have a favorite seasoning packet that comes with a packaged food, trim sodium by using only a portion of the seasoning packet.
- Drain and rinse canned beans and other vegetables to wash away as much as 40% of the sodium.
By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND, CHWC
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.