In their recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the USDA recommends that healthy adults limit their sodium intake to not more than 2,300 mg per day. We consume sodium every day. Sodium occurs naturally in most of the foods we eat including meat, grains and even fruits and vegetables. In fact, without sodium our bodies would not be able to maintain a healthy balance of water and minerals or our blood volume.
The problem with sodium is that when we consume too much, it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Due to consumption of fast food and convenience foods, most Americans far exceed the Dietary Guidelines of 2,300 mg per day. What are some easy ways you can reduce the sodium in your diet? Here are six relatively painless changes you can make today.
Go Frozen Instead of Canned
Want a quick and easy way to reduce the sodium in your diet without sacrificing taste? Make the switch from salt laden canned vegetables to frozen. Frozen vegetables typically have no added salt. Frozen vegetables also retain more of their nutrients during processing than canned veggies. Many nutrients which can be destroyed or degraded by the cooking and canning process.
Avoid Boxes and Cans
In today’s busy world, may families turn frequently to processed or prepared foods. While convenience foods may save you time, they certainly will not save you sodium. Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, not to mention saturated fats and chemicals. Eliminating processed foods from your diet is an easy way to reduce your sodium intake. With a little planning and preparation ahead of time, you can make healthy low sodium alternatives for most of your favorite processed foods.
Skip the Diet Foods and Avoid Hidden Sodium
We all know how to avoid the usual sodium suspects- salty chips, canned soups and of course, the salt shaker. But knowing where sneaky sodium is hiding out makes it easy to avoid it and reduce you overall sodium intake. Manufacturers often add extra sodium to low-fat, low-calorie diet foods in order to improve the taste lost by removing the fat and calories. Soft drinks, vegetable juices, microwave popcorn, butter, instant oatmeal, lean luncheon meats (like turkey) and cottage cheese are also relatively high in sodium. Think that salad you’re noshing on is healthy? Think again if you add salt laden toppings such as bacon bits, salted seeds or nuts, croutons or dressings. Become an informed consumer. Read labels and investigate the sodium content of the foods you eat. Eliminate any high sodium foods from your diet or find lower sodium alternatives you can live with.
Find Alternatives to Your Favorite High Sodium Foods
You don’t have to give up your morning bowl of oatmeal or lunchtime turkey sandwich to reduce your sodium intake. Reducing sodium in your daily diet is as easy as finding lower sodium alternatives for your favorite high sodium foods. Instead of a packet of instant flavored oatmeal try making quick cooking oats or steel cut oats on a stove top or in a small crock pot. Add fresh berries, honey, brown sugar, raisins or unsalted nuts and you have a heart healthy, filling and low sodium breakfast treat. Replacing your sliced turkey deli meat with lean turkey or chicken breast that you cook yourself is another easy and delicious way to reduce your daily sodium intake.
Prepare Your Own Meals Using Whole Foods
One easy way to reduce sodium in your diet is to cook your own meals using whole foods that contain no added salt. Eating out is a surefire way to add unwanted sodium to your diet. Think fast food is the only sodium offender? Think again. Many restaurants add copious amounts of salt to their dishes. Since you can never really be sure how much salt they are adding, err on the side of caution and create your own favorite restaurant fare at home. There are many restaurant copycat cookbooks on the market, or search online and find a recipe you can enjoy.
Put Down that Salt Shaker…and Pick Up Those Herbs
Afraid that reducing the sodium in your diet means eating bland, tasteless food? Think again. Spices and herbs are a great way to enhance the flavor of any dish without any added sodium. Experiment with basil, coriander, thyme, cayenne, garlic, oregano, rosemary, sesame seeds and pepper. Dried or fresh herbs work equally well. Another tip is to always add only half the amount of salt called for in a recipe, then taste. Most times you won’t even miss the additional salt. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can use as much sea salt as you want. All salt contains sodium, sea salt included.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a physician or other medical professionals.
USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans