Did you know that the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams a day of sodium — about 1.5 times more than the Food and Drug Administration’s dietary guidelines recommend? This is not good news, since eating too much salt is linked to high blood pressure — a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And while you may think you are eating a low-salt diet if you put away the salt shaker, it’s not that simple. Salt hides in many common foods that don’t taste salty at all.
Here are some tips to help you lower your sodium intake:
- Flavor vegetables, grains, and meats with herbs and spices instead of salt.
- Try sodium-free garnishes like cumin, curry, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and turmeric.
- Experiment with fresh citrus juice, flavored vinegars, and interesting oils such as pumpkin seed, toasted sesame, or walnut oil.
- Avoid smoked and processed meats such as sausages, hot dogs, and lunch and deli meats.
- Cut back on packaged convenience foods, which tend to be very high in sodium. Frozen dinners, canned soups, store-bought pizza, packaged mixes, flavorings, sauces, and store-bought salad dressings are some of the biggest culprits.
- Look for packaged foods labeled salt-free or low-sodium. To meet the designation “sodium-free” or “salt-free,” foods must contain 5 milligrams or less per serving. Foods labeled “very low sodium” must contain 35 milligrams or less, and “low sodium” equals 140 milligrams or less.
- Beware of sweet foods that may have hidden sodium. While your favorite breakfast cereal or pastry might not taste salty, many are very high in salt. Read labels to check.
- Rinse canned foods such as beans, tuna, and vegetables thoroughly before serving, since they are often preserved with salt.
- When eating out, ask for nutritional information on menu items. Ask to have salad dressings and sauces on the side, or ask for low-sodium options.
- Increase your servings of fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low-salt!