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9 simple ways to reduce your sodium intake now

Salt is everywhere.

It’s dumped into cans of soup, packed into hot dogs and swimming in salad dressing and salsa. Exactly how bad for you are all those tiny crystals? That question’s surprisingly controversial. Still, the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends people limit sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if they’re older than age 50, African- American or have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. Here are some suggestions for cutting back on salt, provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Stephen Havas, a research professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Cook from scratch so you know exactly what’s in your food.

You might be surprised at the sodium content included in your favorite prepackaged meals: The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest analyzed a range of processed foods and found, for example, that ready-made roasted carved turkey contains up to an astonishing 5,410 milligrams of sodium per serving. Half of a ready-made pepperoni pizza might contain as much as 1,350 milligrams.

When you do opt for packaged foods, choose products that are sodium- free or low in sodium.

A typical cup of miso soup, for instance, contains 700 to 900 milligrams of sodium, so look for canned soups with “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” on the label. If you can’t find many of these products, Havas advises asking your local grocery store to start stocking them. Even bread and cereal may surprise you: The CSPI found whole- wheat bread contains anywhere from 150 to 190 milligrams of sodium per slice, depending on the brand. White bread had 115 to 230 milligrams per slice.

Make smart swaps.

You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice taste. A McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, for example, packs 750 milligrams of sodium; a wiser choice is two scrambled eggs, which have just 180 milligrams. Canned tuna typically contains 300 milligrams of sodium per 3- ounce serving, which doesn’t include mayonnaise. Substitute fresh grilled tuna steak, and you’ll only be getting 40 milligrams of sodium. And be wary of salad dressing: Some brands jam more than 700 milligrams into each 1.5-ounce serving. Stick with your own oil and vinegar instead.

At restaurants, ask your server which foods are prepared without added salt — and order those items.

“The more restaurants hear this, the more they’re going to change the way they’re cooking,” Havas says. Fresh steamed veggies and roasted entrees are often the smartest choices.

In the kitchen…

…and at the dinner table, substitute spices, herbs and salt-free blends for salt.

Avoid instant foods such as pasta, rice and cereals, which usually contain salt.

Spaghetti sauce, according to the CSPI, contains 270 to 770 milligrams of sodium per serving, depending on the brand.

Rinse canned foods…

…to wash off some of the salt.

Check labels for sodium in all its forms.

Table salt is mainly sodium chloride, but canned or packaged foods can contain other forms of sodium. These include monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and are found in items such as soy sauce, garlic salt and bouillon cubes.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Fresh produce has “essentially no sodium,” Havas says. If you’re cooking veggies, don’t add salt, and carefully read the labels on frozen vegetables to make sure it hasn’t been added already.

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9 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Sodium Intake Now originally appeared on usnews.com