Be Heart Smart and Reduce Your Sodium

What should you know about sodium and how can it harm your health? You might be eating more sodium than you need without ever picking up the salt shaker. According to the American Heart Association, more than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods. That can make it hard for us to control our sodium intake because it is added to our food before we buy it. Too much sodium is bad for your health, but what can you do to reduce the amount of sodium you eat? The following suggestions are ways to reduce your sodium:

  • When shopping, carefully choose packaged and prepared foods. Choose products with the lowest amount of sodium per serving by comparing food labels. Do not be surprised when you find different brands of the same food having different sodium levels.
  • Pick fresh and frozen meats that have not been seasoned.
  • Select condiments that are reduced or lower-sodium versions.
  • Purchase canned vegetables labeled "no salt added" and frozen vegetables without salty sauces.
  • Shop for products with the American Heart Association's Heart-Check Mark for foods that are part of an overall healthy dietary pattern. The Heart-Check Mark on the product packaging does not mean that a product is "low sodium," but it does mean that the food meets the American Heart Association's sodium criteria to earn the Heart-Check Mark.

Try following these tips when preparing foods while trying to limit sodium intake.

  • Use fresh or dried onions, garlic, herbs and spices in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor.
  • Rinse and drain your canned vegetables before use.
  • If you do not like the taste of lower-sodium vegetables, try combining them with regular versions until you acquire a taste for the lower-sodium version.
  • Cook your rice, pasta and hot cereals without salt.
  • Grilling, braising, roasting, searing and sautéing brings out natural flavors without having to add salt.

When eating out and placing your order, be sure to tell the restaurant to omit the extra salt. Always taste your food before adding salt. If you think it needs a boost of flavor, add freshly ground black pepper or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime instead. When ordering, foods that are listed as pickled, barbecued, cured, smoked, or in broth, soy sauce or teriyaki sauce tend to be higher in sodium. Foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted are normally lower in sodium. If you are hungry for more information about eating less salt, check out cookbooks and recipes from the American Heart Association. You will learn how to monitor the sodium you eat, reduce the high-sodium products in your kitchen, understand food labels, know which foods are salt traps and learn to keep sodium in check while eating out and plan lower-sodium weekly menus without losing the great taste.

This article was written by Markaye Russell, Area Nutrition Agent, Ouachita and Union Parishes and is referenced by the LSU AgCenter and the American Heart Association.

The LSU AgCenter and LSU provide equal opportunities in programs and employment.

10/28/2020 8:39:00 PM
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