Ways to Shake the Salt

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Research shows most Americans eat more sodium than they need, and getting too much in your diet may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and cause other health problems. While much of our sodium consumption comes from salt, many of the foods we eat contain sodium levels that are surprisingly — and dangerously — high. Reading labels can help you reveal these sources of sodium in many pre-packaged, processed, instant and prepared foods, including: salted snacks, cured meats, pickled foods, convenience items, frozen dinners, canned meats, canned and instant soups, and condiments.

According to Kathleen Stanley, a licensed, registered dietitian and coordinator of Outpatient Nutrition Services and Outpatient Diabetes Services at Baptist Health Lexington, fresh herbs and pure spices contain very little sodium and are a great substitute for seasoning foods in place of salt. Use these to cook lean meats and fresh vegetables, creating healthier, lower-sodium meals from scratch:

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A better blend

You can also mix some custom blends to create your own seasonings. Explore your spice cabinet and select those that contain no added sodium — for example, choose onion powder, instead of onion salt. A good base may include an equal mix of black pepper, white pepper, and onion powder. Then, you can experiment by adding other flavors to taste. Use caution with salt substitutes containing potassium — consult your physician to see if these are safe for your health condition before using.

The latest USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake each day to 2,300 mg or less. However, if you are at risk for health problems or have health problems such as hypertension or diabetes, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg each day.

Ask your doctor what level is right for you.