Reading the label can help you keep your heart healthy

Reducing sodium intake is key to heart health. Here are some tips to help you start.

Michigan State University Extension and the American Heart Association reminds us that there are simple tips to help keep our hearts healthy. Reducing sodium (salt) in our diets to no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (about 3/4 teaspoon) is key to heart health. This level is associated with a significant reduction in blood pressure, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

One of the best ways that we can reduce the intake of sodium is to learn to read food packages and labels. Here is an explanation of some key terms related to sodium that you may see on food products:

  • Sodium-free or salt-free – Each serving in this product contains less than 5 mg of sodium.
  • Very low sodium – Each serving contains 35 mg of sodium or less.
  • Unsalted or no salt added – No salt is added during processing of a food that normally contains salt. However, some foods with this label may still be high in sodium.

A handy sodium tracker can get you started on monitoring your intake of salt so that you can see what changes are needed.

Some other great ideas to reduce your sodium intake include:

  • Use herbs and spices to flavor foods – Fresh or dried herbs, flavored vinegar or citrus can enhance the flavor of foods.
  • Select fresh foods over processed foods – Fresh fruit, vegetables and meats are lower in sodium than canned or processed foods. If you use canned fruits and vegetables, lightly rinse under cold water to remove some of the sodium.
  • Eat at home – When you cook your own food you can control the amount of sodium.

As the American Heart Association reminds us, we are never too young or too old to take care of our heart. Start today to help prevent heart disease.

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