Salt Shakers: How to Consume Less Sodium In Your Diet

Having too much sodium in your diet can lead to a whole host of health problems, and the main issue is that most of us don’t know how much sodium we’re getting. Although your body needs sodium to transmit nerve impulses, maintain fluid balance and help in the contraction and relaxation of muscles, you need less than 2,300 mg a day – which is about 1,100 less than the average diet contains. So, what can you do to cut back on sodium?


1. Eat fresh: You’ll find low levels of sodium in most fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as in fresh sources of meat. However, you should steer clear of bacon, hot dogs, sausage and ham.


2. Look on the label: If you really can’t get over your love for processed foods, at least pick the ones that say “low sodium” on the label. Still, it’s better to buy plain, wholegrain rice and pasta than those found in ready-meals or with added seasonings. When buying any food items, watch out for salt-containing ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium citrate and sodium nitrate. You should also avoid products with more than 200 mg of sodium per serving, and make sure you know how many servings are in a package


3. Revamp your recipes: It may not be the way your grandmother made it but you should remove salt from recipes whenever you can. Often, you won’t even notice salt is gone, especially in hearty meals like casseroles, soups, stews and other main dishes. If you need a little more inspiration, find cookbooks that focus on guarding your wellbeing against high blood pressure and heart disease.


4. Cut down on condiments: Although they don’t make up a huge part of your diet, condiments are not worth the salt-content they give you. There’s sodium in soy sauce, salad dressings, sauces, dips, ketchup, mustard and relish, so it’s better to flavour your food with delicious herbs, rather than throwing on some sauce at the end. Fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices can really help to jazz up your meals.


5. Be suspicious of substitutes: Let’s get this straight right now; sea salt is not a good substitute for table salt – they have the same sodium content. You can get “light” salts which contain a mixture of table salt and other compounds, but this often means that you use even more of the light salts to achieve the salty taste you’re used to. Plus, a lot of these substitutes contain potassium chloride which, when eaten in excess, can threaten your wellbeing. This is certainly the case if you have kidney problems or if you’re taking medications for congestive heart failure or high blood pressure that cause potassium retention.


6. Learn the lingo: Manufacturers make cleverly-worded claims about the sodium content of food, so you need to learn the difference between good marketing and a low-sodium product. If it says sodium-free or salt-free, there will be less than 5 mg of sodium in each serving. The label “very low sodium” indicates a sodium content of 35 mg or less per serving, while “low sodium” means a serving containing 140 mg of sodium or less, and reduced or less sodium means that the product contains at least 25% less sodium than the regular version. For a product to be “light” in sodium, the sodium content needs to be reduced by at least 50% from the regular version and, finally, unsalted or no salt added means that no salt has been added to the food, but the product, or some of its ingredients, may still be naturally high in sodium.

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