By Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD
February is American Heart Health month so it’s a good time to talk about sodium. We tend to eat too much of this mineral that can have a negative impact on our blood pressure and in turn, our blood vessels and hearts.
It’s important to know where sodium lurks – it’s much more than just the salt you add to your food. A dash of salt makes many foods, like vegetables, more palatable; however, the biggest sodium contributors in our diet come from overly processed foods – not the salt we shake onto food.
More than 75% of Americans’ sodium consumption comes from :
- Fast foods / takeout pizza
- Deli meats, bacon, hot dogs
- Other processed foods like bread, rolls, ready-to-eat cereals
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Here are some smart strategies to keep your food tasting good…with less sodium.
Top 10 Sodium Solutions for Good Salt Sense
- When buying processed foods – like bread, frozen meals or canned goods – look for lower sodium or no salt added options.
- Eat more potassium! Potassium balances out sodium in the body and is good for our hearts. Prime sources of potassium include beans, bananas, leafy greens, potatoes and yogurt.
- Always rinse canned beans with cold water and drain well – you can reduce up to 40% of the sodium  for meals like these Grilled Bean & Veggie Cheese Quesadillas.
- Use low-sodium broth as a base for homemade sauces, soups and stews.
- Use ¼ – ½ teaspoon less salt than you usually use in cooking and add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar instead. The acidic liquid wakes up the flavor of your food.
- Check your condiments – spreads like teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, salad dressings, ketchup and relish tend to be higher in sodium. Look for less salt options or make your own toppers like this Smoky Carrot Hummus Sandwich Spread.
- Before eating out, look at menus online for nutrition information or once there, ask the waiter for lower sodium options.
- Make your own tomato sauce with “no salt added” canned, diced or pureed tomatoes, minced garlic, onion and fresh herbs for whole wheat pasta recipes and homemade pizza.
- Instead of snacking on pretzels, which can be high in sodium, swap for homemade popcorn or these Sweet & Smoky Peas.
- Experiment with different spices like smoked paprika, Chinese 5 powder spice, cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes. They add lots of flavor without adding sodium, as seen with this Winter White Chili.
And lastly, if you cook at home more often, you’re bound to decrease your sodium intake as you are in control of the ingredients.