Features

March 2016 Issue




10 Ways to Slash Salt

1. Use fresh ingredients when you can. Less processing and packaging usually means less sodium.
2. Rinse canned foods, like tuna, beans, corn, and peas. It removes the lionís share of sodium.
3. Donít add salt to pasta or potatoes during cooking. Save the small amount of salt for the table, where it has the biggest taste impact.
4. Use coarse grain salt, like kosher salt. Less surface area on salt granules translates into less sodium than regular table salt.
5. Donít expect sea salt to provide less sodium. The same goes for finely ground gourmet salts, whether from France or the Himalayas.
6. Substitute acidic flavors, like fresh lemon or lime juice or lemon zest, for salt. Itís not a complete taste substitute, but it helps.
7. Try salt substitutes. They typically contain potassium, instead of sodium, but they can leave a bitter aftertaste. Whether you taste the bitter is genetic. You wonít know if youíre a ďbitter tasterĒ until you try.
8. Watch out for the sodium content of condiments, such as soy sauce (even reduced-sodium), barbecue sauce, ketchup, relishes, pickles, bottled marinades, and salad dressings. Depending on how much you use, they can add a lot of sodium.
9. Know that adjusting to the taste of lower sodium takes time. Cut back gradually to allow your taste buds to get used to it.
10. Remember, most of the sodium in your diet comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. Read labels, ask questions and choose carefully.

Breaking Up with Salt

You may be enamored with salt, but itís in your best interest to maintain a healthy relationship with this ingredient.

“I love you, salt, but you’re breaking my heart.” This is the plea from the American Heart Association for Americans to pledge to “break up” with salt. Almost 81,000 people have done just that. But, it seems breaking up is hard to do. That’s because salt is everywhere. It is a preservative in any number of food products, a texture enhancer in breads and cheese, and a binder and color enhancer in processed meats. Not to mention, it makes food taste really good.

How much sodium to aim for?

spilled salt

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A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that just over 50 percent of people questioned said they were currently trying to reduce their sodium intake. Despite major efforts over the past several decades to get Americans to cut back on their salt intake, the average adult still consumes between 3,400–3,600 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. (Sodium is the component of salt that is believed to raise blood pressure.) The recently released 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg a day and 1,500 mg for those who are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

But not everyone believes it’s time to write a “Dear John” letter to sodium. It’s been suggested that if sodium is too low, it can pose its own health risks. In 2013, the Institute of Medicine stated that there was not enough evidence to reduce sodium intakes to less than 2,300 milligrams. Most experts agree that not everyone is sensitive to the potential blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium. An estimated 25 percent of Caucasian adults are believed to be salt-sensitive and 50 percent of African American adults. Because there is currently no way to test for salt sensitivity, it’s recommended that everyone cut back. That said, it still makes sense to bring sodium levels to a healthier range of 2,300 mg per day.

sandwich

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Bringing sodium in line.

If you’re relying on restaurant, processed, and packaged foods that contain excessive amounts of sodium (see “Shocking Sodium Sources”), you can easily exceed your daily limit for sodium. In addition to cutting back on salt, keep in mind that increasing your potassium intake from fruits and vegetables—which most of us don’t get enough of anyway—can negate some of the blood-pressure-raising effects of a higher sodium intake. Regular exercise also can help lower blood pressure.

—Densie Webb, PhD, RD


Shocking Sodium Sources

More than 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from restaurants, prepackaged, and processed foods, such as the examples here.

FOODSODIUM (MG)
Quiznos Large French Dip Sandwich (1) 3,610
Panera Bread Full Bacon Turkey Sandwich (1) 2,800
Papa John’s Buffalo Chicken Pizza (2 slices) 2,100
Denny’s Spicy Sriracha Burger (1) 2,100
DiGiorno Frozen Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza, Three Meat (2 slices) 1,860
Subway Turkey Italiano Melt Sandwich (1) 1,490
Panda Express Chow Mein (1 serving) 980
Uncle Ben’s 5 Grain Medley Quinoa Pilaf (1 cup) 850
McDonald’s Premium Grilled Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich (1) 750
Campbell’s Mexican Style Chicken Tortilla Soup (1 cup) 670
Source: Restaurant, food company websites