Slashing salt saves lives

December 12, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Most people are probably aware that too much sodium is a bad idea for those with high blood pressure, one of the major risk factors for heart disease. But fewer may know that keeping daily sodium intake to the recommended limit of 1,500 milligrams (mg) is a smart move for everyone — adults and kids alike.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), researchers estimate there would be 500,000 to 1.2 million fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years if Americans moved to an average daily sodium consumption of 1,500 mg.

Limiting sodium can significantly curb the rise in blood pressure that typically happens as we age. It also can reduce the risk of kidney disease, osteoporosis and stomach cancer, as well as heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Yet, the average American consumes more than twice the recommended daily limit. Our increased reliance on sodium-packed processed foods and restaurant meals has upped the challenge of healthy, lower-sodium meal planning.

The AHA reports 65 percent of sodium consumption comes from supermarkets and convenience store foods, 25 percent from restaurants and only 10 percent from other sources, including the salt shaker at the dinner table.

How do you slash salt and get heart smart? Try these 7 tips for cutting down on sodium in your diet:

  1. “Clean” foods are best. Whenever possible, choose fresh fruits and vegetables and cut back on processed foods.
  2. Read labels. Look for sodium content on product labels at the grocery store, and search for foods — especially canned goods and condiments — marked “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.” Pay attention to labels on cheese, poultry and breads, too. Not all foods high in sodium are junk food.
  3. Note how the manufacturer is defining “portion size.” For example, if a portion is described as six chips and you know you’ll really eat about 12, double the listed sodium count.
  4. Plan. Heading to your favorite casual restaurant? Look for nutrition information online or, in some cases, posted in the restaurant.
  5. Skip the shaker. When cooking pasta or rice, rely on a variety of spices or sauces for flavor. Remember, just a ½ teaspoon of salt has 1,150 mg of sodium.
  6. Go bananas. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet, such as bananas, greens, avocados and halibut. This nutrient helps the body eliminate excess sodium. (Potassium intake may need to be limited for people with certain conditions, such as kidney disease.)
  7. Make a trade. Instead of reaching for salt when cooking, try adding other spices, fresh herbs and citrus juice or zests. Trading ingredients doesn’t mean trading away flavor.

Learn more about healthy eating and get healthy recipes.

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