While all foods, especially veggies containing natural sodium which the body was designed to obtain for its proper body function, most people never notice this natural sodium because they have overstimulated their taste buds with added salt. Just a single teaspoon of salt contains 2400mg of sodium! While many preventative nutrition experts recommend consuming 1500mg or less of sodium daily, the average American consumes between 2000 and 8000mg of sodium.
High salt consumption is shown to be linked with high blood pressure, blood clots, heart attacks, stomach cancer, hemorrhagic strokes, and even osteoporosis, as salt causes calcium and other trace minerals to be leached from the body’s bone mass. It is estimated that as many as 90% of all cases of high blood pressure in Americans are exacerbated from a high sodium intake earlier in life but because premature death caused by heart disease or cancer often hits first, the majority of these individuals do not live long enough to experience the detrimental effects of their high sodium eating.
Sodium is accumulative and so it may take a long time to undo the damage from many years of excessive salt intake. The good news is, however, that salt is an acquired taste. So rather than going cold turkey, one can gradually decrease added sodium with time to find that their palate’s taste buds will not only grow to prefer healthier levels of sodium but also learn to enjoy the authentic taste of natural foods.
Insights Into Eating Less Added Sodium:
1. Remove the Salt Shaker From the Table:
Simply done, this is the #1 best way to avoid excessive salt intake.
2. Investigate Labels:
Choose foods with fewer milligrams of sodium than the calories per serving. (i.e.-56mg sodium/250 calorie snack)
Aim for no more than 300mg of added sodium per day. A label may read 300mg of sodium but if it contains 3 servings and its eaten in its entirety then multiply the sodium also by 3 servings for a total of 900mg!
When the Label Says, “_______,” it Means:
“Sodium/Salt free” = <5mg sodium added per serving
“Very low sodium ” = <35mg sodium added per serving
“Low sodium” = <140mg sodium added per serving
“Reduced sodium” = At least 25% less sodium than the original product
“Light in sodium” = At least 50% less sodium than the original product
“Unsalted/No added salt” = No salt added during processing (this does not always mean sodium free)
3. Skip Fancy Salts:
Do not be fooled, kosher salt and fancy designer versions of sea salts contain the same amount of sodium as ordinary table salt with just a few extra trace minerals.
4. Keep an Eye on Canned Products:
Rinse canned beans, veggies, and fish under water after opening to lessen the added sodium preserving them. Buy canned fish products with minimal salt and packed in water, not oil. Prepare your own beans from scratch, which are far more firm and flavorful.
Brands With No/Low Sodium:
Veggies & Beans: Eden Foods, Westbrae, Whole Foods’ 365 store brand
Broths: Pacific Natural Foods, Imagine, Healthy Valley Soup
5. Avoid Common High Sodium Pitfalls:
Avoid prepared, processed, and fast foods (especially lunch meats with potentially carcinogenic sodium nitrates/nitrites. Be aware that salted nuts, MSG, pickles, baking soda, chips, cheese, condiments (even ketchup/mustard), sauces, and dressings can easily contain an entire day’s quota in a single meal setting.
*FRESH & DRIED HERBS: basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, dill, lemon thyme, cilantro, Italian parsley, oregano, cayenne, bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, lemon grass, sage. Your best reward is to grow your own in the backyard!
*SPICES: curry, saffron, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, salt-free seasoning, cayenne/black/lemon pepper,
ground mustard seed, cardamom, chili powder, nutmeg
*FLAVORED EXTRACTS: vanilla, almond, etc.
*ONION FAMILY: Fresh: white/purple onion, garlic, chives, leeks, green onions
Powdered: onion/garlic powder (not onion salt or garlic salt!)
*VEGGIES: fennel, red bell pepper, shiitake/other mushrooms, carrot, daikon/red radish, fresh grated ginger
*VINEGARS: balsamic, apple cider vinegar, or flavored vinegars such as fig or pecan
*NUTS/SEEDS: crushed almonds, sesame seeds, poppy, tahini (sesame paste), raw nut butters
*POWDERS: nutritional yeast, cocoa powder
*FRUITS: tomato products (salt-free), mango, salsa, pumpkin, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries
Citrus (fresh/zest): limes, lemon, or orange
Dried: cranberries, currants, raisins, apricots
*SALT FREE BLENDS: Mrs. Dash, Salt-free Spike, Kirkland’s Organic No-Salt Seasoning (21 spices/ingredients)
*REDUCED SODIUM SEASONINGS: Bragg’s Amino Acids, low-sodium tamari soy sauce, miso paste