Taste before you shake: 5 tips on cutting sodium

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross writes about sodium.
Posted on Sept. 23, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross

Food & Nutrition

Late summer and early fall are wonderful times to make the most of all the fresh locally grown produce and I surely encourage you to make the most of them. This is the time for great soups and hearty stews, colorful salads, and all kinds of fruit desserts. This healthier eating goes along with trying to shake the habit of using too much sodium. I know many of you don’t like the subject but it really is something you need to learn more about and also work at reducing sodium in your healthy eating plan.

The sodium in food comes from a variety of sources; 5% is added during cooking, 6% added at the table, 12% is naturally occurring, and 77% is from processed or prepared foods. You probably already know that eating plans that are high in sodium are linked to high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. To reduce your sodium intake, I suggest you try these tips. When it comes to adding flavor learn to use herbs and spices. Try fresh or dried herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus to season your foods instead of reaching for the salt shaker.

The second tip is whenever possible choose fresh foods over processed foods. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats are naturally lower in sodium than canned and processed foods. I will write more on label reading after the tips. Tip number three is if sodium is a health concern for you what you really need to do is prepare your own foods. Convenience foods and food from restaurants and delis typically have a lot of salt. When you cook your own food, you control how much salt you add. The fourth is learn to choose low sodium canned goods. If you buy processed foods, check the label and select foods with the lowest level of sodium.

The fifth tip is to try to limit foods with more than 200 mg of sodium per serving. Learn to read the nutrition facts label for the serving size and consider how many servings you are actually eating. The final tip is to use less salt. So what you want to work at is gradually cutting back on the amount of salt you add to your food. Your taste buds will adjust over time and you may be surprised to find that you prefer less salt as you have created more flavors with herbs and spices.

Now to your reminders about label reading so you can reduce your intake of salt. Food packages and labels include salt and sodium related words. So here is what they mean: Sodium-free or salt-free — each serving in this product contains less than 5 mg of sodium. Very low sodium — each serving contains 35 mg of sodium or less. Low sodium — each serving contains 140 mg of sodium or less. Reduced or less sodium — the product contains at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular version. Lite or light in sodium — the sodium content has been reduced by at least 50 percent from the regular version. Unsalted or no salt added — no salt is added during processing of a food that normally contains salt. However, some food with these labels may still be high in sodium.

So read labels, use other ways of seasoning foods besides salt, and taste before you shake the salt shaker!

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