Salt has been used to preserve food for centuries. It is also used often to provide flavor. Over time, however, medical professionals have discovered that eating too much salt can be harmful to our health – leading to maladies like high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.
While the daily sodium recommendation for healthy adults is 2,300 mg (or about 1 teaspoon), the average amount of sodium consumed by adults per day is 3,400 mg. So where does all of this salt come from?
Foods that are processed, packaged, or prepared in restaurants tend to contain high amounts of salt. Pizza, fast food, frozen meals, and deli meats are some of the saltiest foods we eat. In fact, foods that may not even taste salty — such as breads and pastries — are often high in sodium.
To help reduce sodium in your diet, here are a four tips:
- Check The Label
Use the nutrition facts label, found on the back of packaged products, to help select items that are low in sodium. Foods with 5% or less of the Daily Value of sodium per serving are considered low sodium. Choose products that are labeled “low-sodium”, “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” as another way to reduce your salt intake.
- Cook It Yourself
Although it may require more time and effort, cooking at home with fresh food allows you to control how much salt is added. If you cook a frozen or packaged meal, add vegetables such as steamed carrots or broccoli for a boost of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Drain and Rinse Canned Foods
Since salt is used as a preservative, canned items like vegetables, beans, and tuna tend to be high in sodium. When cooking with canned foods, always drain out the excess fluid and rinse with water.
- Skip the Salt Altogether
Use herbs and spices for flavor instead of adding salt. Spices like cumin, ginger, rosemary, cilantro, garlic or onion powder can be used to jazz up any meal.
The Nutrition Education team at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank shares these tips during our classes in the community. At our Food Pharmacies, we share low-sodium recipes with participants who are being treated for high blood pressure and diabetes. For more information, check out the Nutrition Education page here.
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