A Message in Salt: Packed with 20 Tips …

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Salt_spoon_1414416Do you have any idea how much salt you consume every day? Do you know about 1 in 3 adults in U.S., as well as one-third of the world’s population, have high blood pressure (or hypertension)?

Hypertension is a risk factor of cardiovascular disease, and responsible for about 50% of deaths from stroke or heart disease. Despite slight debates over the issue, overwhelming evidence supports that increased dietary salt intake raises blood pressure and a reduction in salt intake lowers blood pressure, thereby lowering blood pressure-related diseases. In addition, there is a link between excessive salty food intake and stomach cancer.

Sure, food without salt is boring. At a physiological level, we, humans need a small amount of sodium for fluid balance, muscle contraction and nerve function. However, dietary sodium intake in Americans has reached an alarming, potentially pathological level, largely from excessive salt/sodium hidden in foods in our everyday lives.

Too much salt is damaging. Edema develops when fluid retention occurs with high levels of sodium in the body. I spoke to someone who suffers from atria fibrillation and had edema on the legs. When he simply stopped one thing – eating salty potato chips every day, his edema ceased.

The message:
Added sodium provides more harm than benefit. Sodium doesn’t cause illness alone; however, with multifaceted factors, it plays a role in the development of cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer. So, moderation is the key.

The good news:
You can control your dietary salt intake and take preventative measures against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other illnesses.

And here I’m providing you with Top 20 Tips for Limiting Salt Intake.

1.      Know the limit of your daily intake.
Current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 2,300 mg a day of sodium intake (~1 teaspoon of table salt), but 1,500 mg a day for those who are
- at age of 50+
- African-American
- having hypertension
- having diabetes and chronic kidney disease
Then again CDC suggests that the 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population overall and the majority of adults.
2.      Track salt in your foods. How? One is to use SuperTracker, a great tool to track what’s in your foods. If you prefer note-taking, you can download a printable Sodium Tracker from our website (on “Education” page).
3.      Have the number of your own intake, and go from there to plan your modification. Cut down sodium seriously in various ways, whether it’s sodium-free, super-low sodium, or low sodium.
4.      Know your body, because salt sensitivity varies among individuals, and even hypertension has a salt-sensitive or salt-resistant form.
5.      Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fresh or frozen, which you know for certain no added sodium.
6.      Avoid processed or packaged foods.
7.      Cook your own food so that you know what’s in it. For example, steamed veggies (essentially salt-free), and a spiced dish (either salt-free or salt-reduced).
8.      Keep your favorite food but choose sodium-free or sodium-reduced version.
9.      Mix half of your favorite item with an half of a sodium-free choice.
10.  Choose a low-sodium version of convenient frozen dinner food when necessary.
11.  Shop smart, read the labels, and compare with other foods.
12.  Remove salt from the table – “out of sight, out of mind”.
13.  Replace salt with spices and herbs in your cooking or at the table.
14.  Limit added salt whenever possible, even dinning at the restaurant.
15.  Make a wiser choice by substituting sodium-loaded order or item with sodium-reduced one without sacrificing the taste.
16.  Replace salty snacks with nutritious dried fruits.
17.  Replace salty nuts with un-salted ones.
18.  Purchase canned vegetables labeled “no sodium added” or “reduced sodium”, or rinse the veggies thoroughly to wash out some salt before serving.
19.  Drink “low-sodium” version of vegetable juice, and even better, make your own fresh veggie juice.
20.  Create, share salt-free or salt-reduced recipes, and bring salt-free or salt-reduced dishes to your next potluck to help promote public health.

What is your approach to limit salt intake? Please share.

Image credit: By jarsem

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