French fries, popcorn, potato chips and pretzels just wouldn’t taste the same without salt sprinkled on top of them. These salty snacks, which tend to be high in sodium, can fit into a healthy diet when eaten in moderation but most of us eat more sodium than is recommended.
Although we often hear about the need for reducing sodium in our diets, you might be surprised to learn that sodium is a nutrient that we need for health. Sodium, a mineral that is found naturally in food is essential for many important functions in our body such as maintaining fluid balance, transmitting nerve impulses, regulating blood pressure and helping with the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Too much sodium, however, may contribute to high blood pressure.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily sodium intake of less than 2,300 milligrams. Those who are 51 and older, African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should aim for a daily sodium intake of 1500 milligrams. To reduce your sodium intake, try these tips:
Surrender the salt shaker- Instead of having the salt shaker at the table where it is easy to grab, put it in the cabinet. Also, before automatically adding salt to your food, taste it to see if it truly needs more salt.
Experiment with herbs and spices- these can add great flavor to foods and you may not even miss the salt.
Read food labels- Some foods that are high in sodium may not taste salty flavor so it is important to read the label. Compare different varieties of your favorite foods and choose those with the lowest amounts of sodium.
Make homemade meals more often- Foods served at traditional and fast food restaurants are often high in sodium so cook meals at home as often as possible where you can control how much salt is added to your food.
Buy reduced sodium products when available- Food manufacturers are offering more and more varieties of low or reduced sodium products so next time you are shopping at your local No Frills Supermarket, look for these items and give them a try.
When it comes to veggies, favor fresh or frozen- Choose vegetables that are fresh or frozen or those canned “with no added salt.”
Balance your food choices- If you know you are going to an evening movie and are going to order a big tub of salty popcorn, go easy on sodium for your breakfast, lunch and snacks that day.