Face it. We Americans love our salt.
Our bodies though, don’t need nearly the amount most of us consume each day and the highest sources of salt may be surprising: store-bought breads, frozen pizza and most packaged foods and restaurant entrees.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines currently call for limiting sodium or salt intake for most people to less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, the equivalent of one teaspoon.
Sodium in table salt, or sodium chloride, is the problem. It can raise blood pressure, causing arteries to be more rigid and potentially leading to heart disease or heart failure.
“There’s a greater incidence of high blood pressure in countries like the United States that have higher sodium diets,” said Karla Arrigoni, a Marshfield Clinic dietitian. “In these countries, it’s thought to be more a question of when people will get high blood pressure rather than if they will get it.”
Bone health, too, is affected by eating foods higher in sodium, said Arrigoni.
“This is because with a high sodium diet, more calcium is lost in the urine,” she said.
How do we beat our salt cravings?
“Try salt substitutes, which use potassium chloride,” Arrigoni said. “But these, too, can be a problem if you take certain medications or have kidney problems. Also, try replacing salt with healthier herbs and spices.”
- The more you cook and bake from scratch, the more control you’ll have over salt intake and ability to use different seasonings.
- Carrots, celery, ginger and lemon juices are good fresh flavor alternatives to using salt.
- Fill your saltshaker with combinations of other spices such as curry, rosemary, basil and fennel. Try mixing and matching spice options for preparing meats, vegetables and fruit recipes.
- Make your own seasoning mixes for barbeques or tacos instead of buying them packaged. Many salt-free recipes are available online. Keep fresh by storing in airtight containers.
- Choose from assorted prepackaged sodium-free seasoning combinations available from your local grocer.
“Salt is a flavor enhancer,” Arrigoni said. “It makes foods taste better, but we can become desensitized to this taste. This means, if you’re eating a lot of high sodium foods, they won’t taste salty to you. If you get in the habit of eating less salt, foods high in sodium will begin to taste too salty.”
Kosher salt and sea salt are not healthy alternatives.
“Sodium content for both is similar,” Arrigoni said. “Sea salt has a fresher taste, making it easier to use less.”
For baking, she suggests using more extracts and lower sodium substitutes for baking soda and baking powder.
“Read labels,” Arrigoni said. “Some seasoning mixes can have higher sodium content than you might expect.”
Salad dressing is another surprising source of sodium. Try this sodium-reduced tangy dressing recipe to add flavor to salads.