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5 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Salt

Yes, you should still watch your sodium. Here are tips on how to do it.

Are You Salt-Sensitive?

The reason salt-sensitive people's blood pressure responds strongly to salt intake is through sodium's effect on blood volume. When you eat more salt, your blood pressure tends to rise and when you eat less salt, your blood pressure lowers.

What portion of the population is salt-sensitive? Some researchers have estimated that about a quarter of the American population with normal blood pressure is salt-sensitive, while about half of the people with high blood pressure seem to be salt-sensitive. The black population has demonstrated a greater susceptibility to salt sensitivity than the white population, adds Thierry-Palmer.

5 Steps to Less Salt

1. Pass Up Processed Foods

The Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom estimates that 75% of salt intake comes from processed food. Some food companies are developing products with less sodium, so keep an eye out for sodium listed on food labels. Only small amounts of sodium occur naturally in foods, eating mostly natural, whole foods will help keep levels of sodium down.

2. Cut Back on Condiments

Always dress your sandwiches and burgers yourself. This way, you can not only control the amounts of condiments used, you can choose those that are lower in calories, fat, and sodium, such as:

  • Balsamic vinegar. 2 teaspoons has 14 calories, 0 grams fat, and 2 milligrams sodium
  • Mustard. 1 teaspoon has 10 calories, 0 grams fat, and 100 milligrams sodium
  • Pickle relish. 1 tablespoon has 21 calories, 0 grams fat, and 109 milligrams sodium
  • Horseradish. 2 teaspoons has 4 calories, 0 grams fat, and 10 milligrams sodium
  • Low-sodium light mayonnaise. 17 calories, 1.3 grams fat, and 27 milligrams sodium (the numbers may vary depending on brand).
  • Lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon). 8 calories, 0 grams fat, and 1 milligram sodium

Feel free to load on all the lettuce, tomato, and onion your heart desires. Each adds 5 calories or less per serving, and is mostly sodium-free.

3. Beware of Dressings and Sauces

If you think a little bit of dressing or sauce won't add that much sodium to your meal, think again. Take a gander at some of the dressing offered at the Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant:

Creamy Southwest Dressing (71-gram serving): 1,060 milligrams sodium
Bacon Ranch Dressing (71-gram serving): 810 milligrams sodium
Asian Sesame Dressing (71-gram serving): 780 milligrams sodium

4. Opt for Alternatives

Purchase a battery-operated pepper grinder and your favorite flavor of salt-free herb and spice blend (like Mrs. Dash). Then keep them front and center on your kitchen table to help you break the habit of salting your food.

5. Forgo Fast Food

Eating at fast-food chains may be fast and cheap, but you pay the price in calories, fat, and sodium. Many fast-food items are big on sodium. The following items, at a few top chains, topped the sodium scale:

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