I’ve heard a lot about excessive salt being bad for the body, so do you have any tips for cutting back on it?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association recommend no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day – and no more than 1,500 mg for high risk groups. Nonetheless, the average American consumes some 3,466 mg of sodium each day.
Research has found a relationship between salt intake and high blood pressure. Moreover, that relationship intensifies as we age. The American Heart Association notes:
Reduced salt intake can blunt the rise in blood pressure that occurs with age and reduce the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease events and congestive heart failure.
Before we reduce our sodium, it’s important to know where that sodium is coming from. Last year, I shared a breakdown of salt sources in the typical diet:
- 38% from grains, breads, cakes, cookies and crackers
- 28% from meats and poultry – including lunch meats, ham and bacon
- 12% from vegetables, potatoes, chips and fries
- 8% from milk products
- 4% from salad dressings and other fats
- 4% from beverages and sweets
- 3% from legumes, nuts and seeds
- 3% from eggs
To cut back on salt, here are are a few tips:
- Read nutrition labels. Since 38% of salt comes from grains, breads, crackers and the like, compare each product’s sodium content. Many brands offer low or reduced-sodium options. I won’t buy foods with more than 300 mg of sodium per serving.
- Don’t put salt on the table. For many of us, adding a dash of salt is more habitual than necessary. Keep you salt shaker in the cupboard. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
- Use herbs. Rather than sprinkling salt on your meals, opt for flavorful herbs. Onion powder, lemon juice, cracked black pepper, lime juice, roasted garlic or even ground seeds are all healthier ways to season your meals.
- Be pesky. When eating out, request that your meal isn’t salted. Most chefs will be happy to oblige. Get salt-heavy dressings on the side, and ask for steamed veggies instead of the typical side orders.
- Cut out processed foods and go fresh. According to The Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom, 75% of salt comes from processed foods. Eating fresh meats and produce is one of the most effective ways to eliminate excess sodium.
- Eliminate fast food. Though it’s convenient and cheap, fast food is loaded with sodium. A Jack in the Box bacon ultimate cheeseburger, for example, has 2,040 mg of sodium in and of itself. Without the side order of fries.
- Reduce salt in recipes. Most people can’t detect a 25% reduction in salt, so cut back on the added salt in your recipes. No one will notice the difference.
Though reducing your sodium intake requires a little effort and know-how, it’s an easy way to improve your body’s health. And if you have any tips or tricks for reducing salt, please share them in the comments below!