- The Institute of Medicine has urged the government to gradually reduce the maximum amount of sodium that manufacturers and restaurants can add to foods, beverages and meals.
- The Centers for Disease Control has recommended limiting sodium intake to 1500 mg. daily.
- More than half of Americans have either high blood pressure or pre-hypertension.
- Many Americans exceed the recommended daily amount in one meal.
- Every American who is age 50 or older has a 90% chance of developing hypertension.
- It is believed salt is directly related to over 100,000 deaths per year in the US.
5 Ways to Reduce Salt Intake
- Maintain an Optimal Sodium/Potassium Balance.
This is the most important rule. It is not just about reducing salt intake. It is about increasing your potassium intake. Simply put, those who consume the most sodium are also the ones who are eating the least potassium-rich foods, creating a wider disparity in their sodium to potassium ratio. The ideal ratio should be 2:1 potassium to sodium.
By increasing the foods that are rich in potassium, you are increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Dark green vegetables, papaya, guava, figs, cantaloupe, banana, lima beans, yam, squash, avocado, spinach, potato, and many nuts/seeds contain ideal amounts of potassium. If a potassium supplement is required, you MUST take it under the supervision of a licensed health professional.
Remember that sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte. Please do not look at sodium as unnecessary, just consume in moderation.
- If You Consume Added Salt, Choose Sea Salt, Low Salt, or Salt Substitutes.
Sea salt contains other trace minerals and adheres better to food, making the taste more robust, and does not create such drastic action when entering your body as rock salt does. Low salt or salt substitute brands we recommend:
- Less Salt (lessalt.com)
- Also Salt Original (alsosalt.com)
- Ocean's Flavor 60 or 70% less sodium (oceansflavor.com)
- Scrutinize Labels: identify the Buzzwords for Hidden Salt.
Anything with the word sodium applies. Baking powder, baking soda, dicalcium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate/nitrite, sodium erythrobate, and sodium benzoate are all sodium buzzwords.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and hidden MSG are more responsible for high blood pressure than any other form of sodium. Avoid it completely. Hidden forms of MSG you will see on ingredient labels: textured soy protein, any hydrolyzed protein, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, sodium caseinate.
We are often asked, "if MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?" MSG interferes with magnesium and potassium uptake. Magnesium and potassium are necessary to stop headaches. For the last 20 years, 75% of all people living in the U.S. are magnesium deficient. There is also a grossly stretched sodium to potassium ratio. MSG makes them more magnesium and potassium deficient. Asians eat a lot of foods high in magnesium and potassium, so are not magnesium and potassium deficient.
- Eating Real Food = Reduction in Eating Processed Food.
Many products, particularly breads, processed meats, sauces, and dressings have salt amounts above reasonable benchmarks. According to a recent study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the food groups with the highest mean sodium content were sauces and spreads, followed by processed meats. Stock (for soup) was the highest subcategory. For the food groups that contributed the most sodium to the average person, they are in this order: meat and meat products, bread and bakery products, dairy, cereal and cereal products, and sauces and spreads. As a general note, if you use canned food, rinse first.
- When eating at restaurants, prepared foods, or cooking, be aware of how much salt is in your food.
For average Americans, here is a percentage breakdown of where they get most of their salt:
5% - added while cooking
6% - added while eating
12% - natural sources
77% - processed and prepared foods
A recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine found in a survey of New York City fast food restaurants, only one in 36 purchases met the FDA "healthy" sodium limit (600 mg) for meals. And that is the FDA's limit! The final sample size was just over 6500 meals; each meal contained, on average, 1751 mg of sodium; 20% had more than 2300 mg.
Mean Sodium, Mean Calories, and Mean Sodium Density of Meals at 11 New York City Fast-Food Chains by Collection of Customer Receipts
|Fast-food chain||Mean sodium, mg||Mean cal||Mean sodium density, mg/1000 cal|
|Au Bon Pain||1553||608||2842|
|Kentucky Fried Chicken||2397||958||2504|
When eating out, be smart about your choices and don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask for dressing on the side or use oil and vinegar instead. Shun the bread and butter, minimize soup intake, and limit all heavy sauces. And most of all, avoid fast food.
When preparing food at home, add more herbs, spices, vinegar, and lemon to flavor your food. Use only low sodium broth. Do not salt until the end of cooking time. it brings out a saltier flavor than when added at the beginning.