— By KATHY SMITH
Many Americans don’t realize how much sodium they consume when eating meals or snacks.
It is estimated each American on average consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium every day. This is greater than the 2,300 milligrams recommended for most Americans and the 1,500 milligrams recommended for people with chronic diseases.
High levels of sodium are associated with health risks including heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.
Approximately 77 percent of the sodium consumed comes from packaged or restaurant food. Twelve percent occurs naturally in food and 11 percent of the sodium consumed is added to food while cooking or at the dinner table.
Learning about the content of sodium in food can help you to achieve the lower recommendations of sodium intake. Here are 10 ways that you can cut sodium in your diet:
• Read the nutrition facts label. See how much sodium is in foods you are consuming. Foods that have salt listed as the first three ingredients are considered high sodium. Also look for terms in the label that may means sodium.
• Do not salt foods before or during cooking and limit the salt shaker use to the bale.
• Learn to use herbs and spices to add flavor to food. Try basic, parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano, rosemary, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice and no-salt seasoning blends.
• Buy fresh or frozen meats, poultry, pork and lean meats. These are better alternatives to canned, smoked or processed meats. Remember to check the label on the meat to see if salt water or saline was added.
• Buy fresh or frozen vegetables and low-sodium or no-salt canned vegetables. Read the labels and compare different brands for sodium content per serving.
• Rinse canned products high in sodium. This will lower the sodium content. Rinse the foods before cooking or using.
• Lower the fat. Choose fat-free or 1% low-fat milk, soy milk or nut-based milk products. Also choose lower fat yogurt and cheese. Limit the amount of processed cheese, produce and spreads used.
• Go unsalted. Choose snacks, nuts and seeds that are low sodium or have no salt. For an even better snack have some raw vegetables with low-fat ranch or onion dip with low fat yogurt or sour cream.
• Educate yourself on condiments and their sodium content. Many condiments are high in sodium and can add to your sodium intake. Choose sodium reduced or no-salt ketchup, salad dressings, seasoning packets, and soy sauce. Make your own salad dressings by using oil and vinegar and adding some herbs.
• Speak up at restaurants. Ask for your meals to be prepared without salt and request that sauces and salad dressing be served on the side.