Shake the Salt Habit
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Shake the Salt Habit

Tips for heart-healthy eating

According to the American Heart Association, about one in three Americans has high blood pressure, and a high-sodium diet may be to blame. Given that most people consume about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day—more than twice the recommended sodium intake—it’s really no wonder.   

The hidden dangers and sources of salt
SVMC registered dietitian Kristin Irace notes that, “Consuming too much salt, or sodium, causes the body to retain water which increases blood pressure and puts an added strain on blood vessels and the heart. In addition to increasing your risk of heart disease, excessive sodium can contribute to stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.”

Irace adds that while cutting salt sounds simple on the surface, it’s a lot trickier than you might think. “There’s a lot of hidden salt in food. Some of the surprising sources are bread, chicken breast, salad dressing, and even hot chocolate,” she says. “The key for anyone trying to limit their salt intake is to read labels—specifically the ‘% Daily Value’ information for sodium. You want to aim for products with no more than 15-20% per serving.”

Tips for holding the salt in your diet
There’s no question that salt is tasty which is why Irace advises against going “cold turkey.”

“Our tastebuds get used to a certain level of salt,” she says, “If you try to cut salt out completely, it’s likely you won’t enjoy the experience much. It’s better to go at it gradually. I suggest you start with a one-food-item-per-week approach. When you go to the store, make a choice to, say, choose a lower-sodium salad dressing this week. Then next week, look for a lower-sodium chicken breast. And so on. and so on. This gradual approach essentially helps retrain your tastebuds and increases your odds of sticking to a reduced-sodium diet.”

Other tips for lowering your salt intake include:

  • Eat fresh, not processed food. About 75% of the salt in most people’s diet comes from processed food. When possible, look for fresh options.  Frozen vegetables (without added sauces) are also a budget-friendly choice.
  • Rinse all canned beans and vegetables under cold water before cooking with them. There are also many no salt added versions as well.
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking. Try using garlic, black pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, paprika, ginger, and chili powder to add flavor to your food.
  • Use citrus juice and vinegars in place of salt in sauces and marinades.
  • Buy unsalted butter.

Surprising sources of sodium

  • Breads and rolls
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Deli meat
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned soup
  • Vegetable juice
  • Instant pudding
  • Chicken
  • Processed cheese
  • Pickles
  • Eggs and omelets
  • Salad dressing
  • Ketchup
  • Baked and black beans
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Hot dogs
  • Tomato sauce
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Frozen meals
  • Packaged meal helpers
  • Shrimp

Track your salt intake
There are several salt-intake tracking apps available for both Apple and Android devices. All offer an easy way to calculate daily consumption while others allow you to look up the salt content of specific products to ensure you make the healthiest choices possible. Here are just a few to consider: myDashDiet; MyFitnessPal; Sodium – How Much Salt; Smart Salt; and Wholesome.


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