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Shake it! Shake the Salt Habit and Lower Your Sodium!

We live in a society that measures and medicates. All the tools and technology and medicines deployed to maintain heart health are a help — yet heart disease remains the No. 1 killer in America. And high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major contributor. Even so, heart disease is largely preventable, and much of that prevention lies in small steps that can make a big difference; diet is foremost among them. To lower your blood pressure, you need to reduce salt intake.

In ancient times, salt was so valuable that people used it for currency. It was used sparingly to season and preserve food. Today, we have an embarrassment of riches, and modern humans consume more salt than is good for them. But the biggest contributor to our sodium consumption is not the salt shaker: Approximately 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from sodium added to processed and restaurant foods.

Americans Are Still Eating Too Much Sodium

Despite public health efforts over the past several decades to encourage people in the United States to consume less sodium, adults still take in an average of 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day — well above the current federal guideline of 2,300 mg or less daily. (The American Heart Association’s recommended cap is 1,500 mg, which is much

less than 1 teaspoon — or 6 g — a day.) Evidence has shown that reducing sodium intake reduces blood pressure, as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Many high blood pressure medications act as diuretics, which stimulate the kidneys to remove sodium and water from the body, thereby relaxing blood vessel walls and lowering blood pressure. But before choosing to take a medicine that will get rid of the salt in your diet for you, there is another option: What about cutting down on the salt yourself? If you think about it, you can monitor your salt intake and reduce it without swallowing one pill. Medication may be necessary if you can’t control spiking and consistently high blood pressure. But if you initiate your own regimen, you may be able to lower your blood pressure on your own.

Monitoring salt intake begins with avoiding packaged and processed foods, such as smoked, salted, and canned meat, fish, and poultry; ham, bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meats; hard and processed cheeses; regular peanut butter (buy unsalted instead); canned soups and broths; crackers, chips, and pretzels; breads and rolls; pizza and mixed pasta dishes, such as lasagna; and more.

High-Sodium Foods

· Smoked, cured, salted or canned meat, fish or poultry including bacon, cold cuts, ham, frankfurters, sausage, sardines, caviar, and anchovies.

· Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza.

· Canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam, and chili.

· Salted nuts.

· Beans canned with salt added.

Want to Cut Sodium? Look at Food Labels

Try These 7 Tricks to Reduce Salt Intake Every Day

Since blood pressure rises with age, monitoring your sodium intake increases in importance with every birthday. It’s the “ounce of prevention” that can result in the proverbial “pound of cure.” So here are some tips to help you maintain that sodium-free diet:

· Read the Nutrition Facts label.

· Prepare your own meals (and limit the salt in recipes and “instant” products).

· Buy fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables.

· Rinse canned foods containing sodium (such as beans, tuna, and vegetables).

· Add spices to your food. Instead of salt, try coriander, black pepper, nutmeg, parsley, cumin, cilantro, ginger, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, garlic or onion powder, bay leaf, oregano, dry mustard, or dill.

· Reduce portion size; less food means less sodium.

And when you’re eating in, try this recipe for a heart-healthy meal.


· 3 tbsp olive oil, divided

· 3 cups, chopped, of any vegetables in your fridge

· 1 tsp minced fresh garlic

· 1 can (14 ounces) low-sodium chopped tomatoes, drained

· 1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

· Salt-free seasonings, such as coriander, cayenne, parsley, or tarragon

· 2 zucchinis, sliced into thin sheets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then and add the chopped veggies and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas,

stirring to combine. Add your choice of salt-free seasonings to taste. Remove from heat. Spread the remaining tbsp of olive oil on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Cover with a layer of zucchini. Spread the sautéed mixture evenly across the zucchini base. Add a layer of zucchini on top. Sprinkle with oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

I added 2 cups cooked quinoa to this for some protein!


When sodium pops up in the news these days, the conversation most often focuses on where it hides (bread, milk, processed items) and how to avoid it (don’t eat these foods). This conversation holds essential information for those keeping a low-sodium diet, but with all the "can not's," "do not’s," and "should not’s," it is also a message that often leaves people feeling empty instead of full.

So as someone who has lived on a satisfying salt-free diet for almost a decade, I propose we talk about something a little more inspiring. Let’s focus less on the sodium restrictions, and instead, on the sodium opportunities.

Do you like beets, celery, or meat?

Did you know they all contain sodium, too?

A single beet has 65 milligrams of sodium, celery has 50 milligrams of sodium per large stalk, and a chicken breast contains around 70 milligrams of sodium per serving, and the majority of whole foods contain some amount of sodium, too. The point isn’t to say that you should start avoiding the produce aisle and the butcher counter along with those foods that "hide" sodium, but instead, it’s that there’s a way to bring that "salty" taste back to your favorite dishes.

Here are eight high-sodium whole foods that will add depth and flavor to your cooking. These foods are natural in flavor, nutrition powerhouses, and they can boost and balance your meals. This list will pleasantly surprise you, and will show you that there is actually some sodium that you can enjoy.

BEETS Red and gold and with around 65 milligrams of sodium per beet, these vibrant root vegetables may become your favorite salt substitute. Simply slice and bake them to make stand-in potato chips, blend them and add them to homemade vegetable juice for a fresh take on the classic Bloody Mary, or roast them and add them to salads or pasta sauces for a bright, earthy kick. And in sum: don’t fear the beet. Use it to your cooking advantage (just wear gloves).

CELERY and CARROTS There is a very good reason that celery and carrots make up two-thirds of a mirepoix, otherwise known as the holy trinity of French stocks. With 50 milligrams of sodium in both a large stock of celery and a large carrot, these vegetables provide that familiar savory flavor in soups and stews, without several pinches of salt. They’re a great crunch and salty bite to tuna and chicken salads. Roasted, boiled, or raw, celery and carrots are great kitchen staples to have on hand. As for seasoning, look for salt-free celery seeds to boost the salty taste in everything from baked chicken to green beans to homemade mac and cheese.

MEAT It’s common practice to save bones for soup and stocks, but when it comes to low-sodium cooking, don’t forget about the juices. Whether you are sautéing ground beef (75 milligrams per serving, raw) or cooking a lamb chop (around 65 milligrams per serving, raw), the leftover browned bits and meat oils can be recycled when cooking other ingredients. For example, instead of using oil or butter, sauté vegetables in a little bit of the cooked meat fat. Or, after slow-roasting chicken, remove the breasts and thighs from the Crock-Pot and add in beans or grains to soak up the meaty leftovers.

SPINACH and CHARD Have you tasted sautéed spinach lately? When boiled without anything else, it packs 125 milligrams of sodium per cup and a powerful salty taste. And similarly, a cup of cooked Swiss chard contains more than 300 milligrams of sodium, providing another "salty" side dish. So when rounding out a meal, choose these greens to complement lower-sodium entrées. Use them in place of lettuce for a more surprising salad, or swap them in for basil to make a vitamin-rich and slightly "salty" pesto sauce


1. Shrimp

Packaged, plain, frozen shrimp commonly contains added salt for flavor, as well as sodium-rich preservatives. For example, sodium tripolyphosphate is commonly added to help minimize moisture loss during thawing 3-ounce serving of non-breaded frozen shrimp may contain as much as 800 !

In contrast, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of fresh-caught shrimp without salt and additives has just 101 mg of sodium.

2. Soup

Canned, packaged and restaurant-prepared soups often pack a lot of sodium, though you can find reduced-sodium options for some canned varieties.

The sodium primarily comes from salt, though some soups also contain sodium-rich flavor additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

3. Ham

Ham is high in sodium because salt is used to cure and flavor the meat. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of roasted ham averages 1,117 mg of sodium. Consider using ham only as an occasional condiment in small amounts rather than eating a full serving.

4. Pickles

A single 1-ounce (28-gram) dill pickle spear — the kind of pickle that might come alongside a deli sandwich — has around 241 mg of sodium.

The sodium in whole pickles adds up more quickly. A medium-sized dill pickle packs 561 mg of sodium. If you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, keep pickle portions small.

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of protein, but it’s also relatively high in salt. A 1/2-cup (113-gram) serving of cottage cheese averages 450 mg of sodium, The salt in cottage cheese not only enhances flavor but also contributes to texture and functions as a preservative.

6. Vegetable Juice

Drinking vegetable juice is a simple way to get your veggies, but if you don’t read nutrition labels, you could be drinking a lot of sodium, too. An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of vegetable juice may have 405 mg of sodium. Fortunately, some brands offer low-sodium versions — which means they can have no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving according to FDA rules.

7. Salad Dressing

Some of the sodium in salad dressing comes from salt. Additionally, some brands add sodium-containing flavor additives, such as MSG and its cousins, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. In a review of major brand-name foods sold in US stores, salad dressing averaged 304 mg of sodium per 2-tablespoon (28-gram) serving. However, sodium ranged from 10–620 mg per serving across the samples of salad dressing, so if you shop carefully, you could find one low in sodium.

8. Pizza

Pizza and other multi-ingredient dishes account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume. Many of the ingredients — such as cheese, sauce, dough and processed meat — contain significant amounts of sodium, which add up quickly when they’re combined. A large, 140-gram slice of store-bought, frozen pizza averages 765 mg of sodium. A restaurant-prepared slice of the same size packs even more — averaging 957 mg of sodium. If you eat more than one slice, the sodium quickly adds up. Instead, limit yourself to one slice and complete your meal with lower-sodium foods, such as a leafy green salad with low-sodium dressing.

9. Sandwiches

Sandwiches are another one of the multi-ingredient dishes that account for almost half of the sodium Americans consume. The bread, processed meat, cheese and condiments often used to make sandwiches all contribute a significant amount of sodium. For example, a six-inch submarine sandwich made with cold cuts averages 1,127 mg of sodium. You can significantly cut back on sodium, by choosing unprocessed sandwich toppings, such as grilled chicken breast with sliced avocado and tomato.

10. Broths and Stocks

Packaged broths and stocks — used as the base for soups and stews or to flavor meat and vegetable dishes — are notoriously high in salt.

For example, 8 ounces (240 ml) of beef broth average 782 mg of sodium. Chicken and vegetable broths are similarly high in sodium. Fortunately, you can easily find reduced-sodium broths and stocks, which have at least 25% less sodium per serving than the regular versions.

11. Boxed Potato Casseroles

Boxed potato dishes, particularly scalloped potatoes, and other cheesy potatoes pack a lot of salt. Some also contain sodium from MSG and preservatives.

A 1/2-cup portion of dry scalloped potato mix — which makes a 2/3-cup cooked serving — has 450 mg of sodium. Everyone would be better off swapping boxed potatoes for more nutritious starches, such as a baked sweet potato or winter squash.

12. Pork Rinds

Crunchy pork rinds (skins) have grown in popularity due to increased interest in the low-carb ketogenic diet. However, though pork rinds are a keto-friendly snack, they’re high in sodium. One 1-ounce serving of pork rinds has 515 mg of sodium. If you opt for barbecue flavor, a serving has 747 mg of sodium.

13. Canned Vegetables

Canned vegetables are convenient but pack their share of sodium.

For example, a 1/2-cup serving of canned peas has 310 mg of sodium, similarly, a 1/2-cup serving of canned asparagus packs 346 mg of sodium.

Draining and rinsing canned vegetables for a couple of minutes can reduce sodium content by 9–23%, depending on the vegetable. Alternatively, opt for plain, frozen vegetables, which are low in sodium yet convenient.

14. Processed Cheese

Processed cheeses, including pre-sliced American cheese and loaf-like processed cheese like Velveeta, tend to run higher in sodium than natural cheese.

This is partly because processed cheese is made with the help of emulsifying salts, such as sodium phosphate, at high temperatures, which makes a consistent, smooth product. A 1-ounce serving of American cheese has 377 mg of sodium, while the same amount of loaf cheese has 444 mg of sodium. Instead, opt for lower-sodium, natural cheeses, such as Swiss or mozzarella.

15. Jerky and Other Dried Meats

The portability of jerky and other dried meats makes them a convenient protein source, but salt is used heavily to preserve them and boost flavor. For example, a 1-ounce serving of beef jerky packs 620 mg of sodium. If you’re a jerky fan, look for meat from grass-fed or organically-raised animals, as they tend to have simpler ingredient lists and less sodium. But be sure to check the label.

16. Tortillas

Tortillas contain ample sodium, mainly from salt and leavening agents, such as baking soda or baking powder. An 8-inch flour tortilla averages 391 mg of sodium. If you like tortillas, opt for whole-grain and consider how the sodium count fits into your daily allowance.

17. Cold Cuts and Salami

Not only do cold cuts — also referred to as luncheon meats — and salami contains a lot of salt, many are also made with sodium-containing preservatives and other additives. A 2-ounce serving of cold cuts averages 497 mg of sodium, The same amount of salami packs even more — 1,016 mg. Sliced, fresh meat — such as roast beef or turkey — are healthier options.

18. Sauces

You may flavor foods with sauces either during cooking or at the table, but some of that flavor comes from salt. Soy sauce is among the saltiest — a 1-tablespoon serving packs 1,024 mg of sodium. Barbecue sauce is quite salty as well, with 2 tablespoons providing 395 mg of sodium. You can find reduced-sodium versions of some sauces, including soy sauce, or make your own to keep levels low.

19. Tomato Sauce

You may not think to check the sodium in a can of plain tomato sauce or other canned tomato products, but you should. Just one-fourth cup of tomato sauce has 321 mg of sodium. Fortunately, canned tomato products without added salt are widely available.

20. Canned Meats, Poultry and Seafood

Like other canned foods, canned meats are higher in sodium than their fresh counterparts, though some manufacturers may be gradually reducing sodium.

In a recent analysis, canned tuna averaged 247 mg of sodium per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving. This represents a 27% decrease in sodium content compared to several decades ago. In another recent analysis, canned chicken or turkey had 212–425 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving. However, cured, canned meats, such as corned beef and pork, were significantly saltier — 794–1393 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving. Pass these up for lower-sodium canned options or buy fresh.


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The Bottom Line

Many people far exceed the maximum recommendation of 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

In addition, your risk of developing salt-sensitive high blood pressure increases with age.

To cut back on sodium, it’s best to minimize processed, packaged and restaurant foods, as they sneak in a lot of sodium you may not suspect.

Processed meats — such as ham, cold cuts, jerky, hot dogs and sausage — are especially high in sodium. Even plain, frozen shrimp is often treated with sodium-rich additives.

Convenience foods — including boxed potatoes, canned soup, instant pudding, meal helpers, pizza and frozen meals — also tend to run high in sodium, as do salty snacks such as pork rinds and pretzels.

Some manufacturers are gradually reducing the sodium in certain packaged foods, but change is happening slowly. Regardless, many of these foods are unhealthy anyway.

It’s always best to opt for unprocessed, whole foods.


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