Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is an important part of preventing and managing high blood pressure. You can start by beginning to carefully read ingredient labels on food and drinks that you intend to buy. First learn what an item’s sodium content actually is before you decide to buy it. Once established, this habit will be vital to reducing your sodium intake and improving your overall health.
Studies have shown that an adult should not consume any more than 6 grams of salt per day, but most of us eat and drink much more than that. In fact, the average American takes in about 3,400 mg of sodium a day — much more than is recommended. The United States Department of Health and Human Services advocates that you ingest no more than 1500 to 2300 mg of sodium (3750 to 5730 mg of salt per day), depending on your age.
If you’ve been in a grocery store lately, you’ve probably noticed that there are more and more low-sodium foods and drinks on the shelves, from cheese to crackers and soups to sandwiches. There’s good reason for the change: eating salty foods can dramatically increase your risk for serious health conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke. The obvious prescription for improved health is to cut some of the salt from your diet, but sodium is sneaky — it can lurk in many seemingly healthy foods. Here are some of the worst offenders.
• Beware of Breads
You most likely do not think of bread as a salty food, but certain types of bread products contain fairly high amounts of sodium. To decrease your sodium intake, the next time you’re craving a sandwich, get some low-sodium rye bread — the reduced calorie version contains only 93 mg of sodium per slice, significantly less than the 170 mg in the average slice of white bread. Another good choice is whole-grain bread, which contains about 127 mg per slice.
• Forget Frozen Meals
Packaged low-calorie frozen meals may seem like a convenient way to control portions and watch your calorie intake, but most of them contain way too much salt. Some of them contain more than 500 mg per meal, which is one-third of your recommended daily intake if you are following a low-sodium diet.
• Curb Cereals
You probably do not immediately think of breakfast cereal as a salty food, but many of the ‘healthier’ cereals like corn flakes and toasted-oat cereals, have almost 300 mg of sodium per cup. The problem is not the sodium per serving, but the small amount that counts as a serving size. A typical cereal bowl can hold one and a half to two cups of cereal, if not more. To control your salt intake at breakfast, watch your portion size, and perhaps try shredded-wheat type cereals, which are low-sodium foods. A one-cup serving of frosted miniature-wheat cereal, for instance, has only 3 mg of salt.
• Drop the Diet Soda
While diet sodas do not have the sugar and the calories of regular soda, they contain much more sodium — 28 mg for a 12-ounce can compared to 15 mg for regular. The healthiest drink by far is water. The average cup of municipal tap water comes in at about 5 mg of sodium.
• Cut the Canned Soup
Those cans of minestrone and tomato soup may make for a comforting meal, but they can be veritable salt-fests. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup may contain 1,100 + mg of sodium. If you do not have the time or interest to make soup from scratch, limit your salt intake by choosing canned soups that are labeled ‘healthy’ or ‘low-sodium.’ While they may not be free of salt, they usually contain much less sodium than regular versions.