Sodium intake is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. The average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily.
In contrast, the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams. Just one teaspoon of table salt (a combination of sodium and chloride) contains approximately 2,300 milligrams of sodium.
Most sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods, prepackaged foods and restaurant food. The rest comes from adding sodium in cooking or in seasoning at the table. Sodium is a mineral that naturally occurs in foods.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with food companies and restaurants to decrease the amount of sodium in our diet. If you are ready to make changes in your diet to reduce your sodium intake, here are some tips to get you started:
▪ Limit the salt added in cooking.
▪ Take the salt shaker off the table, or at least taste your food before adding salt.
▪ Check your seasonings for sodium/salt. Flavored peppers, such as garlic pepper, often contain salt. Look for pepper without salt. Use garlic powder; onion powder; celery powder; or fresh garlic, onion and celery in place of garlic, onion and celery salts. Be aware that MSG is a common flavor enhancer that also contains sodium.
▪ Experiment with herbs and spices for flavor as your taste buds adjust. Don’t forget to try citrus, vinegars or hot sauce.
▪ Try a homemade or packaged salt-free herb/spice blend.
▪ Explore seasonings and recipes featuring flavors from other countries.
▪ Be aware that condiments, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, dips and dressings, are usually high in sodium. Use these additives sparingly.
▪ Limit portions of pickles, relish and olives.
▪ Limit use of prepackaged and processed foods. Convenience foods, such as an instant cereal packet, often contain salt. Make your own cooked cereal from scratch, and you can omit or decrease salt.
▪ If you use convenience foods that come with a seasoning packet, consider using your own low-salt seasoning, or use only a portion of the seasoning packet provided. Look for items labeled “low-sodium” or “no salt added.” Aim for products with no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving.
▪ Look for vegetables that are fresh, frozen without sauces or canned without added salt. If using a canned vegetable with salt, you can drain and rinse before using. Limit portions of sauerkraut and pickled vegetables.
▪ Dining out is a common source of salt. Try to order foods prepared without added salt. Order salad dressing on the side, and control the amount used. Sauces and gravies also can be ordered on the side. Try to order vegetables, salads and fruits. Use small portions of ketchup or other condiments with salt. Know that processed meats, such as brats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and ham, contain high amounts of salt.