It's estimated that nearly 70% of the U.S. population is salt-sensitive, in particular, people over 40 years old, African Americans, and those with high blood pressure.
These groups need to reduce sodium in order to cut their risk of heart disease and stroke.
While we need some sodium for our bodies to function properly, 1,500 mg a day is enough (that's about one teaspoon of salt). Due to diets that include many foods already high in salt, adult Americans are getting more than twice the daily need.
It's a startling statistic, but it's believed that 100,000 deaths could be prevented each year if Americans reduced the amount of salt in their diets.
Though salt is in foods all around you, three steps can help you lower the sodium in your diet:
Only about 10% of the sodium in our diet comes from the salt we add to food once it’s on the table. So while it helps to keep the salt shaker at bay, it’s even more important to watch the sodium content of our foods, especially packaged ones.
Those pre-packaged, prepared foods – frozen, boxed, or canned – may be convenient, but many are loaded with sodium.
If you use packaged foods, be sure to read nutrition labels carefully, especially serving sizes. Select the lowest-sodium option.
These food items are among those highest in sodium:
Don’t be fooled by products labeled “reduced sodium” – that simply means that the sodium is reduced by 25% from the original, and it could still be considered a high-sodium food.
Try these tips from the American Dietetic Association to keep sodium levels in check at home:
Make good choices at the grocery store:
Use as little salt in cooking as possible.
Use herbs, spices, and other seasonings to add flavor to your cooking without salt.
Don’t use mixes or prepared products that contain high levels of sodium.
Try these tips for lowering your sodium intake when dining out:
Be especially aware of sodium when choosing ethnic restaurants.
Dishes at Asian restaurants, like Japanese, Thai and Chinese, tend to be high in sodium because they use lots of sauces and chicken stock.
Italian cooking can be high in sodium, too, using canned tomatoes and salty cheese.
You don’t have to avoid these restaurants altogether, just choose dishes carefully, round out your meal with a salad or steamed vegetables, and watch your portion sizes.
By cooking for yourself, checking the labels on processed foods, and making wise choices when you eat out, you can control the amount of salt in your diet. Lowering your sodium will help you eat well for better heart health.
Try these resources for recipes and tips for low-sodium living:
Low-sodium recipes and information on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet
Recipes that all have 140 mg of sodium or less
In addition, you can search online recipe sites or the cookbook section at your local library or favorite bookseller for low-sodium cookbooks
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.