You know to watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake, but what about salt?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released new guidelines encouraging food manufacturers to lower sodium levels in 150 food product categories such as baked goods, snacks and soups. New York City announced plans to require chain restaurants to post icons warning patrons of high-sodium foods on their menu — a first-of-its-kind ruling. And recent studies have put sodium in the spotlight questioning its impact on cardiovascular disease.
With these recent developments, you may be wondering, “How much is too much salt?”
The United States Dietary Guidelines advises consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) daily — roughly one teaspoon — while the American Heart Association takes it a step further by suggesting no more than 1,500 mg daily, especially for people with high blood pressure.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 90 percent of Americans consume more salt than recommended — an average of 3,400 mg per day.
“A diet high in sodium may increase one’s risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack,” says Ursula Ridens, registered dietitian nutritionist at Sharp HealthCare. “But, there are simple strategies to decrease the amount of salt consumed.”
1. Add taste without adding saltMake foods flavorful without salt by using herbs, spices, garlic, onion, lemon juice and flavored oils. If you’re used to adding salt to your foods, it may take a bit to get used to less saltiness, but be patient and let your taste buds and mind adapt to sodium-free flavorings.
2. Limit or avoid processed foodsJust because you aren’t picking up the saltshaker to add flavor to your meal, doesn’t mean that it’s not already in there. Many processed and packaged foods contain significant amounts of salt. For instance, canned vegetables and beans, as well as deli meats (e.g., bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham) contain added salt. Instead, opt for dried beans and fresh vegetables and meats that naturally contain less sodium. If you do buy canned vegetables or beans, select “low sodium” varieties (meaning 140 mg or less sodium per serving), and rinse with water which reduces sodium by up to 40 percent.
3. Know the “Salty Six”According to the American Heart Association, common foods loaded with sodium (deemed the “Salty Six”) are:
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
Although it can be difficult (and likely unrealistic) to cut out these foods completely from meals, there are ways to lower the sodium found in these foods. For instance, when ordering or making a pizza or sandwich, pile on fresh veggies and use less processed cheese and meats. If poultry is on the menu, fresh is always better, compared to fried, canned or processed.
4. Read labelsWhen grocery shopping, read nutrition labels to find out how much salt is in the food or beverage product. Aim for foods that have less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Also, look for foods marked as “low salt” or “low sodium.”
For the media: To talk with a Sharp nutritionist about sodium intake, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.