A Bowl of Salt

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It’s clear that Americans have a taste for salt - 90% of us consume too much of it. A teaspoon of salt is 2325mg of sodium and the average American consumes 3400mg of sodium each day. Everyone should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age, and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.

Sodium has shown to increase high blood pressure. High Blood Pressure is known as the “silent killer” because one in three adults has it, but 21% do not know it. High blood pressure is a concern to health professionals because of its connection to two of the nation’s biggest killers – heart disease and stroke – but is also linked to osteoporosis, dementia, kidney failure, blindness, sexual dysfunction, and sleep apnea. Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200 mg per day on average could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.

It can be challenging to reduce sodium in the diet because it can be included in foods that otherwise seem healthy. Some foods that you eat several times a day, such as bread, add up to a lot of sodium even though each serving is not high in sodium. There are steps that you can take, however, to reduce sodium in your diet.

  1. Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions—especially cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli/luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli, and soups.
  2. Cook more often at home—where you are in control of what’s in your food.
  3. Fill up on veggies and fruits at every meal and snack. Fresh and frozen are both nutritious.
  4. Choose more fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt in place of cheese, which is higher in sodium. Choose fresh beef, pork, poultry, and seafood, rather than those with salt added. Choose unsalted nuts and seeds.
  5. Cut back on salt little by little—and pay attention to the natural tastes of various foods. Your taste for salt will lessen over time.
  6. Keep salt off the kitchen counter and the dinner table. Use spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar, or lemon juice to season foods or use no-salt seasoning mixes. Try black or red pepper, basil, curry, ginger, or rosemary.
  7. Read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients statement to find packaged and canned foods lower in sodium.
  8. Ask for low-sodium foods when you eat out. Restaurants may prepare lower-sodium foods at your request and will serve sauces and salad dressings on the side so you can use less.
  9. Pay attention to condiments. Foods like soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, salad dressings, and seasoning packets are high in sodium. Have a carrot or celery stick instead of olives or pickles. Use only a sprinkling of flavoring packets instead of the entire packet.
  10. Boost your potassium intake which is found in vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, beet greens, tomato juice and sauce, sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), and bananas. Other sources of potassium include yogurt, clams, halibut, orange juice, and milk.
  11. Tell the food industry you want them to reduce sodium in their products. Put your money where your mouth is and purchase foods lower in sodium.

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Family and Consumer Sciences Agent