Shaking Your Salt Habit
Reducing the amount of sodium you consume can help lower high blood pressure or prevent it from developing in the first place.
To reduce your risk aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of salt per day. Some people - African Americans, middle-aged and older adults, and people with high blood pressure - need less than 1,500 mg per day.
What are the common sources of sodium?
When you must reduce the amount of sodium (salt) you eat, be aware of both natural and added sodium content. Table salt is sodium chloride. It's 40 percent sodium by weight. When you buy prepared and packaged foods, read the labels. Watch for the words "soda" (referring to sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda) and "sodium" and the symbol "Na." These products contain sodium compounds.
Some drugs contain high amounts of sodium. Carefully read the labels on all over-the-counter drugs. Look at the ingredient list and warning statement to see if the product has sodium. A statement of sodium content must be on labels of antacids that have 5 mg or more per dosage unit (tablet, teaspoon, etc.). Some companies are now producing low-sodium, over-the-counter products. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist if the drug is OK for you.
Most spices naturally contain very small amounts of sodium.
How can I reduce the sodium in my diet?
- Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts.
- Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.
- Limit the amount of salty snacks you eat, like chips and pretzels.
- Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes.
- Select unsalted, fat-free broths, bouillons or soups.
- Select fat-free or low-fat milk, low-sodium, low-fat cheeses, as well as low-fat yogurt.
- Specify what you want and how you want it prepared when dining out. Ask for your dish to be prepared without salt.
- Use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food.
AHA Efforts to Reduce Sodium in the Food Supply
The average American consumes an average of 3,436 mg of sodium daily. Many experts now believe that lowering daily consumption to no more than 1,500 mg of sodium daily would be an effective way to lower high blood pressure and prevent its onset. However, the amount of sodium and salt used in the U.S. food supply makes this goal difficult to achieve for most Americans.
The American Heart Association is working with federal agencies to identify strategies to reduce the amount of sodium in the food supply and is encouraging food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce the amount of sodium in foods by 50 percent over a 10-year period.