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The American Heart Association recommends less than 1,500 milligrams (one teaspoon) of sodium per day. Most Americans are eating 3,400 milligrams daily—that’s over twice the recommended dose! Help lower your salt intake by cutting out the foods that secretly hide loads of salt. Read below to find out more.
What is Salt?
Salt, also known as sodium chloride, serves as a food preservative and keeps foods safe to eat. It is regulated by the FDA as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) ingredient. Salt has a long history of safe uses and is a common ingredient.
Benefits of Less Salt (Sodium)
Sodium plays a valuable role in our bodies. It maintains fluid balance, muscle strength, and nerve function. However, it’s important to find a balance. Too much salt causes increased blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage. Salt does this by making the heart work harder during your regular daily activities. This in turn, affects blood circulation, the kidneys, and overall heart heath.
12% – Natural salt in foods
12% – Table salt added onto food
75% – Salt added to processed foods by manufacturers/added to foods at restaurants.
Foods with Hidden Salt – Watch Out!
• Frozen dinners, entrees, pizza, vegetables
• Vegetable juices
• Canned vegetables
• Deli, cured, and processed meats (ham, hot dogs, sausages)
• Spaghetti sauce, marinades, flavorings
• Spices and jalapeno peppers
• Nuts (especially peanuts)
• Favorite carb snacks (cereals, potato chips, cheese puffs, pretzels, sweets, breads)
• Pre packaged side dishes (rice, potatoes, pasta, pudding)
• Condiments (ketchup, sweet relish, pickles, capers)
• Headache/heartburn medicines
Food Label Cheat Sheet
- Sodium Free: Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.
- Very low sodium: 35 milligrams or less per serving.
- Low sodium: Less than 140 milligrams per serving.
- Reduced sodium: Sodium level reduced by 25%.
- Unsalted, no salt added, without added salt: Made without the salt that’s usually used. However, it still contains sodium that’s a natural part of the food itself.
The Different Names of Salt
When looking at food labels, be sure to watch for various surnames such as: sodium alginate, sodium ascorbate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium benzoate. Foods with 5% or less sodium are considered low sodium. Foods with 6%-20% have moderate sodium. Anything else above 20% sodium is a high dose.
Downfalls of Dinning Out
It’s very easy to receive many courses when you’re eating at restaurants. It’s even easier to not realize how many calories and what ingredients you’re actually eating. High sodium restaurant foods are: soups, appetizers with cheeses or meats, casseroles, rice pilaf, or any type of “sauce.” Be wary and steer clear of fast food. If you must eat take-out, don’t supersize (order from the kids menu), undress the baggage (skip the cheese and bread), eat a strictly low salt diet for the rest of the day, and get a nutrition fact sheet to make the healthiest choice.
How do you overcome the high salt pitfalls? Stick to the best low salt menu choices of: Fish, steamed vegetables, salad with dressing on the side, and desserts like fruit, ice cream, sherbet, or angel food cake.
Don’t hate salt too much—as with most things, take it in moderation. It’s important to eat just the right amount, and not too much!