Tips for Reducing Sodium (Salt) From Your Diet

Sodium is an essential nutrient that your body needs for many functions including maintaining water balance and the proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Your body requires about 500 milligrams of Salt Picsodium per day to keep everything in good working order.  Unfortunately, the average person consumes upwards of 7 to 10 times that required amount and high sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure, obesity and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.  The following tips will help you keep your sodium intake in check:

 

Read Nutrition Labels

One of the easiest ways to cut back on sodium is to read food labels (see post).  Sodium content is always listed on the label.  Start by looking for foods labeled “no sodium added,” “low sodium” and “reduced sodium.”  Then simply compare the various brands of the same food items and select the one that contains the least amount of sodium.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid products that contain more than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving.

 

Eat Fewer Processed Foods

Processed foods, which are basically foods that come in a sealed package, box or can, tend to have the highest sodium content.  The main culprits are deli meats (and cheeses) and cured meats such as ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs.  Frozen dinners, canned soups and meats are other common examples of highly processed foods.  If a food item has a long shelf life, whether kept in the fridge, freezer or cabinet, chances are it’s processed and jam-packed with sodium (and other assorted garbage!).  At best, you should keep your consumption of processed foods to a bare minimum, but you’re better off without most of them.

Note:  Not all processed foods are unhealthy – many frozen vegetables are low in sodium and have good nutritional value.  That’s why it’s important to read food labels!

 

Eat More Fresh Foods

Try to consume more fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, fresh meats and fish.  These are foods that are in their natural form and contain very few ingredients.  Unlike processed foods, fresh foods tend Fresh Foodsto be naturally low in sodium.  That’s because fresh foods are not riddled with all kinds of unhealthy preservatives (including added sodium) just so they can keep fresher longer.  Sure, you might have to make a couple extra trips to the market, but it’s well worth it in the long run.  Hint: You typically find the fresh foods around the perimeter of your grocery store in the refrigerated sections.

 

Don’t Add Salt

Do your best to break the habit of reaching for the salt shaker.  Better yet – get rid of it!  You should also try to eliminate salt from recipes whenever possible.  Instead of salt, try using other seasonings to give your food that little extra kick.  There are plenty of low (or no) sodium seasonings available including black pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, vinegar and lemon juice.  Sea salt, however, is not a good alternative.  It contains about the same amount of sodium as regular table salt.

 

Use Less (or No) Condiments

Condiments such as salad dressings, dips, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard and relish are loaded with sodium and should be used sparingly (or not at all).  If you insist on using them, buy ones that are low in sodium – it’ll be marked on the label.  But if you’re eating at a local burger joint  or a church picnic, you can pretty much figure on getting a full-strength dose of sodium by adding condiments.  If that’s the case, just go easy on them or don’t indulge at all.

 

 

So how much sodium should you consume daily?  The American Heart Association recommends staying below 2,300 milligrams per day.  That number drops to 1,500 milligrams per day for those who have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease and if you’re age 51 years or older.  In case you’re wondering how much 2,300 milligrams is, it’s about a teaspoon of salt – that’s not much.  So be sure to keep these tips in mind, and at the very least, they should help prevent you from OD’ing on sodium.

 

I hope that helps,

Paul

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