When you’re healthy, you need a little salt in your diet to remain balanced. However, much of our food supply is overloaded with salt and many of us are consuming way more than we even realize. Here are a few tips from guest blogger, Chris Bekermeier, to help you control your salt intake.
If you are up-to-date about “salt facts,” you’ve probably read too much salt causes hypertension, or high blood pressure, which may lead to a host of other problems like heart disease and stroke. Did you also know that salt is prevalent in our diets, even if we don’t pick up the saltshaker? Approximately 75% of our daily salt intake is already in the everyday foods we eat such as ready-meals, cereals, breads and soups.
Many people forget, whether eating out or at home, that adding salt to their food is unnecessary and also unhealthy. Tasting food to see if salt is needed is the best solution. Many people add salt through habit, but frequently find it is not necessary because their food tastes fine without it.
Research published in the British Medical Journal reveals that if Americans made minute reductions in their salt intake, the result would be over 100,000 fewer cases of heart disease, over 60,000 fewer strokes, and more than 90,000 fewer heart attacks yearly.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans created by the federal government suggest that individuals limit their sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams if they are over age 50, are African-American or have high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes. Even though necessary in small quantities, salt increases blood volume, stresses the heart and raises the pressure in the arteries.
5 Tips to Take Salt Out of Your Diet
1. Cook from scratch.
Pre-packaged meals are loaded with sodium. For example, one can of beans contains more than 800 milligrams of sodium! The not-for-profit, CSPI (Center for Science in the Public-Interest) examined an assortment of processed foods and discovered that one ready-made meal contained up to an amazing 5,410 milligrams of sodium per serving! By cooking your own food, you have more control of the amount of salt it contains.
2. Select products that are low-salt or salt-free.
A standard cup of canned soup contains as much as 700-900 milligrams of salt, so check for soups with “reduced sodium” or “low sodium” on the label. If these products are not available at your local grocers, ask the store manager to start stocking them. Breads and cereals are not harmless either. The CSPI discovered whole-wheat bread contains anywhere from 150-190 milligrams of salt per slice, varying slightly with each brand. White bread contains 115-230 milligrams per piece.
3. Make clever exchanges.
There is no need to forgo taste. Have two freshly scrambled eggs for 180 milligrams of salt, instead of a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with over 800 milligrams of salt! Tuna in the can usually comes with 300 milligrams of salt per 3-oz serving, not including mayonnaise. Replace it with a freshly grilled tuna steak and you consume only 40 milligrams of sodium. Be cautious with salad dressing too. Some brands have more than 700 milligrams per 1.5-oz serving. Try an oil and vinegar dressing instead.
4. Ask questions when eating out.
The more restaurant patrons ask questions such as “Which foods are prepared without additional salt?” the more restaurants will alter the way they cook. Order foods prepared without extra salt. Roasted entrees and fresh steamed veggies are frequently the best choices.
5. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Fresh produce has “zero” sodium. Eat fruits and vegetables raw or if you cook the vegetables, use a salt substitute if necessary. Cautiously read labels on frozen vegetable packages to ensure that salt has not already been added.
Extra Tip: There is no need to make all of these changes straight away. By gradually decreasing the quantity of salt in your foods, your taste for salt alters over time. Moreover, eating more potassium helps to lower your blood pressure as well. Excellent sources of potassium include bananas, yogurt, beans, cantaloupe and potatoes.
Remember that labels list the “per serving” amount of each ingredient. That means a can of soup containing two-servings may list 490 milligrams of sodium yet have 980 milligrams of salt in one can!
About the Author
Chris Bekermeier is Vice President, Sales & Marketing of PacMoore in Hammond, IN. PacMoore is a contract manufacturer focused on processing dry ingredients for the food & pharmaceutical industries. Capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting, & consumer packaging.
What do you do to reduce your salt intake? Do you have any other tips that Chris didn’t mention in his list?