Salt is a necessary component of the human body, playing a role in blood pressure, blood volume, muscle and nerve function and much more. In basic terms, wherever salt goes, water goes with it. This means that excessive sodium consumption can mean high blood pressure, excess fluid buildup, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
The average American consumes 3400 milligrams of sodium a day. However, the Mayo Clinic reminds us that we should limit our sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams a day, or less, depending on your health history. Someone over the age of 50 should limit their sodium intake to 1500 milligrams per day.
These may seem like high numbers paper, but consider a single teaspoon of table salt has about 2325 milligrams of sodium in it. Yikes! To avoid both temporary bloat and more serious long-term health problems, it is important to limit our sodium intake.
Here are 7 tips to help you cut sodium in your diet:
Use fresh ingredients over processed one whenever possible. For example, by preparing your own soups with fresh vegetables, herbs, and broth, you can cut down your sodium intake significantly. It may take a little longer to prepare, but well worth it.
Make better choices when buying vegetables. Whenever possible, choose fresh vegetables as they are naturally very low in sodium. However, if you have to buy frozen, choose ones that say “fresh frozen” on the label and do not contain added seasonings and sauces.
Use onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegar in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to your food. Use fresh herbs or buy salt-free seasoning blends such as Mrs. Dash products or Trader Joe’s 21 Salute. Also, use spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, like garlic powder instead of garlic salt.
Choose wisely when dining out. Ask for dishes to be prepared without extra salt and get dressings on the side, like salad dressing, butter, etc.
Read food labels carefully. Sodium content is always listed on food labels. Check servings sizes. At times, the sodium per serving size sounds reasonable, but when compared to the serving size it can be high.
Roast or grill your vegetables to help bring out their own natural sweetness and give them a nice caramelized exterior flavor.
Incorporate foods with potassium, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.
Salt preference is an acquired taste. It takes 6 to 8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt. But once it’s done it’s actually difficult to eat foods that contain high levels of sodium. To get used to eating less sodium, in the beginning, combine lower-sodium versions of food with regular versions. You’ll get less salt and probably won’t notice much difference in taste. This works especially well for broths, soups, and tomato sauce.