13 Ways To Successfully Lower Your Salt Intake
Let’s talk about ways in which you can reduce your sodium intake. Increased sodium in your diet is linked to hypertension which can subsequently cause heart, kidney, vascular and brain disease.
According to the American Heart Association, we require about 1500 mgs of salt per day. As Americans, we consume about 3,400 mg/day, more than twice what we need. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 2300 mg/day for low risk individuals and no more than 1500 mg/day for high risk individuals. High risk means greater than 51 years old, African American, high blood pressure, diabetes and/or chronic kidney disease. If you have to choose a target regardless of your risk factors, 1500 mg/day is a good goal.
Furthermore, 75% of the salt we consume comes from processed food and restaurant food, and less than 25% from what we add ourselves. According to the CDC, 44% of the sodium we eat comes from just 10 types of food. They also calculated that reducing the amount of sodium the average American consumes by 1200 mg/day would save the healthcare system 20 billion dollars per year. Some folks are more sensitive to dietary salt changes than others and Individuals with pre-existing conditions may be more susceptible to changes as well.
1. Focus on the big picture, don’t get wrapped up in numbers
The goal here is to decrease salt intake across the board, in every meal and every snack. You should be eating less than 1500 mg of salt per day, and less is more in this case. Don’t lose sleep trying to count your way to 1500 mg every single day; try to see the forest for the trees.
2. Do not use table salt.
This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how hard it is for some people. If you find you can’t “avoid” using it when it’s there, then make sure that it’s not sitting on the table when you eat your meal.
3. Your tastes buds will get used to no/low salt
Going salt free can be tough for people who like to enjoy their food, which happens to be most people. Fortunately, your tastes buds can adjust to a no salt diet just like they can adjust to anything else. Stick with it and after several weeks (6-8) you’ll start to forget you ever used salt in the first place.
4. Choose “low sodium”, “unsalted”, “no salt added” and “sodium free” foods.
Food manufacturers are savvy to the concept that many individuals want or need to lower their sodium intake. Subsequently, they have started labeling their foods as low sodium, unsalted or even sodium free. Keep an eye out for these products to replace the higher salt version you would previously have purchased.
5. Read nutrition facts labels, choose foods lower in sodium
This is a great habit to get into for looking at calories, carbs, fat and protein content as well. For folks who need to pay attention to sodium, it’s very easy to do if you make a habit out of it. Get used to this and you will find managing your diet much easier.
6. Choose fresh foods instead of processed foods.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, etc typically do not have salt added to them as a preservative. However, processed foods in many cases have added salt either for flavoring or preservation or both. For a variety of reasons, including reducing salt intake, it’s always a good idea to choose fresh food over processed or pre-cooked foods.
7. Read the content labels of processed foods you are purchasing
In addition to reading the nutrition facts label, you should read the content label of any processed foods you’re not sure about. The higher the word “sodium” is on the list of ingredients, the more sodium there will be in the final product.
8. Talk to your doctor about using salt substitutes
Salt substitutes are not helpful or healthy for everyone who is on a salt restricted diet. For example, table salt (NaCl) can be replaced by potassium chloride (KCl), but the excess potassium can also cause problems for some folks. Make sure to talk to your doctor about any salt substitutes you are considering, especially if you have pre-existing conditions.
9. Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends when cooking at home.
This applies to both the cooking and when at the table. Skip using salt in cooking pasta, rice, cereals and vegetables as well.
10. Cut back on chips, frozen dinners, pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings — these often have a lot of sodium.
This goes along with #6, but it’s important to be specific. Choose foods you know are high in salt and specifically cut them out of your diet. Treat them as if they don’t exist and you’ll find stopping eating them much easier.
11. Get your family on board.
It’s much easier to commit to dietary changes when everyone plays along. If others at home are cooking with salt or using salt on their food, you will be that much more tempted to use it yourself. If you get your family on board, you’re more likely to succeed.
12. When eating out, ask your server about low sodium foods.
Some restaurants label their foods as low sodium, but not most. It can be difficult if not impossible to project the salt content of a certain food product simply by looking at the menu. It’s part of the servers job to have this information available so don’t be afraid to ask. Also consider looking at the restaurant's website prior to heading there, you may find they can’t meet your needs.
13. If you do use a canned product, rinse it off to remove salt.
Let’s be honest, sometimes you have to used canned goods even on the strictest low salt diet. If you find yourself in this position, many foods can be rinsed off prior to continuing to prepare them or eat them.