Reduce that sodium intake!

Besides the major problems of senior kidney and cognitive functioning, Kay Alberg, a Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian in the Community Shopper, explains that “Sodium intake is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.”

She continues, “The average American eats more than 3400 milligrams of sodium daily. In contrast, the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 1500 milligrams. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2300 milligrams of sodium.” Just one teaspoon of table salt (a combination of sodium and chloride) contains 2300 sodium milligrams.

Where does most sodium in our American diet come from? The mineral appears in processed foods, restaurant meals, prepackaged edible items, and added sodium used in cooking or in seasoning of food. The mineral also naturally occurs in foods such as celery (30-50 milligrams of sodium), which is much lower than a canned soup serving that may exceed 1000 milligrams of sodium.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the cooperation of food companies and restaurants, is working to decrease our diet’s sodium. Alberg recommends these tips to help you get started on reducing your own sodium intake:

1. Limit the salt added in cooking.

2. Remove the salt shaker from the table or taste your food before adding salt.

3. Check for sodium/salt in your own seasonings. For example, flavored pepper, such as garlic pepper, often contains salt. Look for pepper without salt. Be aware that MSG is a common flavor enhancer that also contains this mineral. Use powders such as garlic, onion, celery, or fresh garlic, onion, and celery in place of garlic, onion and celery salts.

4. For flavor as your taste buds adjust, experiment with herbs and spices. Don’t forget to try vinegars, citrus, and hot sauce.

5. Sparingly use condiments such as ketchup, chili and barbeque and soy and teriyaki sauces, dips and dressings which are high in sodium/salt.

6. Pickles, olives, and relishes should be limited in portion sizes.

7. Limit use of processed and pre-packages foods, such as an instant cereal packet. Instead, make your own cooked cereal with limited or no salt content.

8. If using convenience foods that come with a seasoning packet, use only a portion of the packet or use your own low-salt seasoning. Look for items in the store that are labeled “no salt added” or low-sodium” (no more than 200 milligrams per serving).

9. Look for vegetables that are fresh or frozen without sauces or canned without added salt. If the canned vegetable has salt added, drain and rinse before using it; watch out for pickled veggies and sauerkraut.

10. Check family recipes and decrease sodium in them.

11. Do the same for holiday meals. Flavors will shine without the need for excess sodium.

12. When dining out, try to order fruits, vegetables, and salads with dressings and gravies and sauces on the side. Limit salty chips, as well as processed meats, such as hot dogs, brats, sausage, ham and bacon that contain high amounts of sodium. Watch the rest of your daily meals and snacks for salt content.

Because the taste for salt is an acquired habit, it might take some time for you to get used to a healthier diet with limited content of the mineral. In time, however, you will prefer your new taste for lower salty foods!

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