Reducing Salt in the Diet

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Salt (sodium chloride) is something that is added to many foods that we may not be aware of. For people with hypertension, this can be a problem.

The NHLBI (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute) states on their website…“most Americans consume more salt than they need. The current recommendation is to consume less than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams[mg] ) of sodium a day.” They also say that doctors usually recommend even less for people with high blood pressure (1500 mg in the diet) to keep blood pressure stable and help blood pressure medications to work better.

Salt That is Hidden in Foods

There are many processed foods out in the market that have salt already in them. Some of these foods include canned soups, frozen foods, tuna, peanut butter, crackers and most fast foods from a restaurant.

There are also salt conscious versions of these foods out in the market as well; the labels may read “reduced or low sodium” or “no salt” (which can be a better option for people who want to eat healthy and manage their salt intake) or for people who must avoid salt at all costs because of high blood pressure.

The key is to read all labels on food packaging; the sodium content is usually listed on most foods under “Sodium” in milligrams. The next time you buy a box of cookies, take a look at the sodium listed on the back label–did you expect to see that much salt in cookies?

Managing Salt in the Diet

One easy way to cut down on salt is to just not add it to foods at the dinner table. For the foods that we have less control over such as when dining out, WebMD.com recommends to ask that it be omitted in meals at the restaurant. WebMD.com also suggests that if salt is to be used in cooking at home, to add it at the end of the cooking cycle (as much less will be needed). They advise to balance out “salty” meals with foods rich in potassium.

Cooking without Salt

Sometimes it is beneficial to omit the salt altogether when cooking. In this case, herbs may be used to add flavor to the foods instead of salt. Salt can also be taken or rinsed off of certain foods. Avoid salty “prepared” spices, condiments and seasonings altogether and add fresh herbs such as oregano, basil, cinnamon, cilantro and thyme to spice up foods when cooking. Fresh onions and garlic also offer a lot of flavor when added to foods.

Salt can either be managed or avoided altogether. Eating healthfully requires being knowledgeable about the foods we consume. This responsibility is up to the consumer. If salt is a problem and concern, reading all food labels becomes a necessary practice. Picking out the appropriate foods at the grocery store can lead a consumer to being more selective and careful. Cooking itself can take on a different shape when salt no longer enters into the recipes.

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