Slash your salt

Five tips to reduce salt intake.

How many people reach for the salt shaker when they sit down for a meal? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nine in 10 Americans, age 2 and older eat too much salt. The maximum recommendation for sodium is 2,300 milligrams per day. However, nearly 70 percent of adults in the United States are considered at high risk of health problems associated with salt and should be limiting their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day.

Studies show that consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure which often leads to other health problems including stroke, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease. Salt has also been associated with stomach cancer and osteoporosis.

If you find out you are consuming too much sodium, what can be done to “slash the salt” to a healthier level? Harvard Medical School provides five ways to cut back on salt:

  1. Use spices and other flavor enhancers – herbs, spices and other flavorings such as fresh or dried garlic, oregano, pepper, sage, rosemary, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, lemon or lime juice, flavored vinegars and fragrant oils can help boost the flavor of everyday dishes.
  2. Go nuts for healthy fats in the kitchen – learn how to use healthy fats (roasted nuts, avocados and olive, canola and soybean oils) to add rich flavor to meals without salt.
  3. Sear, sauté and roast – learn how searing and sautéing foods can build flavor. Proper roasting techniques can bring out the natural sweetness of vegetables, fish and chicken. Drizzling flavorful oil and squeezing citrus on food that is steamed or microwaved can also add flavor to many dishes.
  4. Get your whole grains from sources other than bread. Bread, even whole-grain, can have high levels of sodium because it is used to ensure that the dough rises properly. There are many whole grains available, outside of baking, that can be added to dishes or cooked.
  5. Eat fresh – shop locally for fresh fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of their natural flavor.

If you plan on using a salt substitute, check with your health provider first. Sodium free substitutes contain potassium chloride and “lite” salts replace half the salt with potassium chloride. While most people can tolerate extra potassium, it can be dangerous for those with diabetes, kidney disease or other chronic health conditions.

Michigan State University Extension recommends downloading the CDC’s Get the Facts: Sodium and the Dietary Guidelines fact sheet. This is a great reference to post on your refrigerator at home or the bulletin board at work as a reminder on the importance of reducing salt.

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