Lowering Your Salt Intake
Posted by Caitlin Norton
If you’re like many people, you’re getting far more sodium than you need. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day, or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are African-American, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Just one teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium and sodium isn’t only found in table salt. Many processed and prepared foods already contain lots of sodium and it’s these foods that contribute the most sodium to your diet.
It’s important to note that your body needs some sodium to function properly because it helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body, influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles, and helps transmit nerve impulses.
Tips to cut back
Virtually all Americans can benefit from reducing sodium in their diet. Try to avoid or limit foods with more than 200 mg of sodium per serving and check the Nutrition Facts label closely for the serving size. Consider how many servings you actually eat.
Here are more ways you can cut back on sodium:
- Eat more fresh foods. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Buy fresh and frozen poultry or meat that hasn’t been injected with a sodium-containing solution. Look on the label or ask your butcher. Buy plain whole-grain rice and pasta instead of ones that have added seasonings.
- Opt for low-sodium products or choose those that are labeled “low sodium.”
- Remove salt from recipes whenever possible. Baked goods are generally an exception since leaving out the salt could affect the quality and taste. Use cookbooks that focus on lowering risks of high blood pressure and heart disease to help guide you to sparing the salt without spoiling taste or quality.
- Limit use of sodium-laden condiments. Soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish all contain sodium.
- Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance foods. Use fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices to jazz up your meals. And remember that sea salt has about the same amount of sodium as table salt.
- Rinse canned vegetables or beans with water before using. Rinsing can dramatically reduce the sodium in these foods.
- Use salt substitutes wisely. To achieve that familiar salty taste, you may end up using more and still get too much sodium.
Experts say your taste for salt is acquired, so you can learn to enjoy less. Decrease your use of salt gradually and your taste buds will adjust. After a few weeks of cutting back on salt, you probably won’t miss it, and some foods may even taste too salty.
Always consult your doctor or other medical professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.