You may have heard from your doctor or dietitian that you need to reduce your sodium intake to help decrease your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. High levels of sodium in the diet causes fluid retention, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Excessive intake can also lead to bloating and weight gain.
So many clients tell me that they are not consuming that much sodium because they don’t add salt to their foods. In reality, the average American adult eats more than 3,400mg of sodium per day, which is more double the American Heart Association’s recommended limit! According the CDC, 65% of sodium consumed comes from the food bought in retail stores, 25% comes from restaurants, and 10% comes from home cooking. Your body needs less than 500mg to function properly. The current dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300mg of sodium per day for adults and children with a further restriction to 1,500mg for those with pre-hypertension and hypertension.
Help to keep your heart healthy by knowing what and where to look for sodium in your favorite foods. Check out the tips below for ways to cut back on your sodium intake!
Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel
Always be sure to check the nutrition label of packaged foods. Compare different brands to see if one is lower than the other. Remember to check the serving size and servings per container because if you consume more than what is recommended, you will need to double or triple the sodium content!
Set Meal and Snack Sodium Limits
Aim for less than 500mg of sodium per meal and less than 250mg of sodium per snack (or side dish) as a rule of thumb.
Aim for Low-Sodium or No-Salt-Added
More and more companies are putting the words “no-salt-added” on the front of their package. While this won't guarantee the product is "low-sodium" (less than 140mg per serving) it is a great step. Try buying canned sauces, vegetables, and beans with this statement and again always check the food label.
Rinse Your Canned Foods
Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans to cut the sodium by approximately 60%.
Limit Highly Processed Foods
Luncheon meats, cheeses, cakes, cookies, and restaurant foods are almost always loaded with sodium, along with more calories and fat. Try to limit your portions of these foods and compliment them with more fresh fruits and veggies.
Watch Your Sauces/Condiments
Sauces, gravies, salad dressings, ketchups, can all be ladened with salt. Look for low-sodium options. If you are going out to eat, ask for these items on the side and use sparingly.
Opt for Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Try to make at least half of your plate veggies and add fresh fruits to your snacks!
Cook More at Home
When you are cooking at home, you are able to control how much sodium goes into your meals. Experiment with fresh herbs and spices for flavor. Also, try adding citrus (like lemons or limes) to boost the natural flavor in foods.
Just a reminder, a food label can claim a meal/main dish is "healthy" if it contains less than 600mg of sodium, which is still a lot. Be the salt sleuth and take control of what you eat!
Check out the American Heart Associations article on table salt versus sea salt: http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sea-salt-vs-table-salt/