It’s no secret that Americans are eating too much sodium. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, and yet, on average, we consume about 3,400 milligrams. Too much sodium in the diet may lead to an increased risk for stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer and kidney disease.
Salt is a dangerous habit, made more difficult by the fact that nearly 75 percent of the sodium we eat sneaks its way into our system via prepared and processed foods.
“There’s so much salt in our food supply that most of us, unless we’re really looking for it, may not even be aware,” says Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont.
From canned goods to restaurant entrees, salt is everywhere. The so-called “salty six” (bread and rolls, cold cuts/cured meat, poultry, soup, sandwiches and pizza) are, perhaps, the best-known offenders. But it’s important to watch out for the less obvious sources as well. Johnson cautioned that we should be more aware of high salt content in the following foods.
Foods high in sodium
- Foods that are pickled
- Foods that are smoked
- Condiments, such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, cocktail sauce and ketchup
- Prepared salad dressing
- Foods served in a broth or with au jus
- Some cereals
- Meat, poultry or seafood that has been enhanced with a sodium solution
- Canned beans
- Canned tomatoes
- Processed cheeses, such as American
- Spice mixes that have salt in them
To lower the amount of salt your diet, Johnson shared the following tips.
Read the label and ingredients
Sodium can go by a number of names, including salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate. Read the label and be aware of how much you’re consuming so that you remain below 1,500 milligrams per day.
Just a squeeze will do
Citrus is a great salt substitute. A squeeze of lemon or lime can really heighten flavor.
Spice it up
Play around with your favorite fresh herbs and spices. Here are some ideas:
- Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
- Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
- Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads, pie crusts
- Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup, mayonnaise
- Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
- Garlic (not garlic salt): Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
- Ginger: Chicken, fruits
- Mustard (dry): Lean ground meats, lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mayonnaise, sauces
- Nutmeg: Fruits, pie crust, lemonade, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding
- Onion powder (not onion salt): Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
- Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
- Peppermint extract: Puddings, fruits
- Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffings, potatoes, peas, lima beans
- Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
- Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
- Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice
Choose low- or no-sodium labels
Whether you’re shopping for canned vegetables, beans, soup, tomatoes or any other potentially high sodium items, opt for the choice that has the lowest amount of sodium. Also, by cooking your own meals (start out by following these recipes) and avoiding processed foods, you can cut down drastically on the amount of salt you consume.
Find the right substitute
Many salt substitutes are made from potassium chloride. This is a good thing, because Americans need more potassium in their diet, and potassium can help lower blood pressure. Try a few substitutes and see if you like them. Discovering the best one for you is a matter of personal taste.
Don’t put the saltshaker on the table
It’s a simple method, but it can be effective. Too often, we salt our food without thinking twice about it. By removing the saltshaker from your view, you’re less likely to be tempted by it.