To Your Health: Simple strategies to cut sodium

To Your Health: Simple strategies to cut sodium By Pam Carter, RD An estimated 50 million American adults have high blood pressure � a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Despite the attempts by health experts to increase awareness of the risks of high blood pressure, Americans are now consuming more sodium than ever � about 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day � about twice the recommended amount.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that young adults consume less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. People with hypertension, African-Americans, and middle-aged and elderly people are advised to consume no more than 1,500 mg per day. Nonetheless, Americans continue to consume more and more sodium, especially in the form of processed food.

Many health experts recommend removing the salt shaker from the dining table. This may not be enough, especially considering that 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed foods. There has been some reduction in the sodium used in processed foods and many of our favorite brands have developed low-sodium and no-salt-added products. A product that contains 140 mg of sodium or less per serving is considered to be a low sodium product.

If you�re trying to lower the sodium in your diet, here�s what you can do:

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are virtually sodium-free. If you prefer canned vegetables, choose the low-sodium or no-salt-added versions or simply drain the water from the can and rinse the vegetables with cold water. Fruits and vegetables are a source of potassium. Studies suggest that these potassium-rich foods can help counter the effects of high sodium intake.

Read the label. All your answers are in plain sight. All food labels list the total sodium content. A good rule of thumb is to choose foods that have less than 5 percent of the daily value for sodium.

DASH. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet has been proven to lower blood pressure as much as some medications. DASH is low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, and rich in fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

Beware of hidden sodium. Watch sources of sodium including whole-grain bread, crackers and ready-to-eat cereals, and dairy foods, especially cheese.

Other high-sodium sources: frozen food with sauces; macaroni and cheese with flavor or seasoning packets; salad dressings; condiments, snack foods, luncheon meats, hot dogs and processed tomato products, from juice and ketchup to salsa and sauce.

Smart low-sodium choices include: oatmeal, plain shredded wheat, brown rice, nonfat milk and yogurt.

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