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The Sneaky Side of Sodium

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  April 17, 2013 11:49 AM

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Photo Source: AHA
According to research from Mintel, about six out of every ten Americans are trying to watch the sodium in their diet by cutting back on the amount of salt that they cook with and use to season their foods at the table.  Unfortunately, you have a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure at some point in your life, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Typically, the higher your sodium intake, the higher your blood pressure.   Having high blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

While it appears that Americans are getting more watchful about their sodium intake, we are still consuming more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended daily and almost seven times the small amount that is actually needed daily for our bodies to function properly.  Cutting back on the amount of salt you use in the kitchen is a good first step, but unfortunately, over 75 percent of the sodium we consume sneaks in from processed foods.  In addition to retiring the salt shaker, we need to also be more watchful about the amount of sodium-rich processed foods we are eating.

Luckily, many food companies are trying to help the cause by reducing the  amount of sodium that they put in their products.  For example, General Mills has reformulated more than 250 products, such as their canned vegetables, soups, and cereals, to lower the sodium per serving.  They currently have a corporate plan in place to lower sodium by 20 percent, on average, across many of their products by 2015, according to Juli Hermanson, RD, Senior Nutrition Scientist at General Mills. 

To help you reduce the amount of sodium you consume from processed foods, the AHA has published a new book, Eat Less Salt, with plenty of tips and tricks.  Here are some of their Sodium-Saving Solutions aisle by aisle in the supermarket:

In the Seafood Aisle:
  • Frozen shrimp is often processed with a preservative that can jack up the sodium to over 800 milligrams per serving.  Read the label to find the shrimp with the least amount and buy the less salty fresh, not previously frozen, variety when you can.
  • Shellfish tends to be higher in sodium than other fish so don’t season it with salt or use salty marinades when you are cooking.
In the Poultry and Meat Aisle:
  • Beware that “all natural” poultry may be injected with salt and/or broth.  A teaspoon of salt provides 2,300 milligrams of sodium and a cup of broth provides a whopping 860 to 980 milligrams of sodium per cup.  Check the label on your bird before you put it in your cart.
  • Skip the marinades, which can coat your poultry and meat with 340 to 610 milligrams of sodium for each measly tablespoon used.  Use no-salt-added seasoning rubs for flavor instead.
In the Dairy Aisle:
  • Cottage cheese is very high in sodium so consider nonfat Greek yogurt instead for a snack.
  • While natural cheeses are salty, they actually have less than cheese products or processed cheeses.  Use a cheese plane in order to keep your portion to one paper thin slice.
In the Salad Dressing Aisle:
  • Fat-free salad dressing tends to have more sodium than their full-fat or low-fat equivalents.  Buy the full-fat variety and dilute a tablespoon of it with an equal part of balsamic vinegar.  Two tablespoons of this new combo dressing will have less sodium and fat than if you were to use 2 tablespoons of the bottled dressing. 
  • Skip the seasoned croutons, which can add over 200 milligrams of sodium for every ½ cup you use.  If you need some crunch, top your salad with a tablespoon of unsalted chopped nuts.
For more tips and over 60 heart healthy recipes, click here to order the AHA’s Eat Less Salt.

                                         Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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