Low-Sodium Recipe and Cooking Tips
According to the U.S. government, Americans are supposed to eat no more than 2,300 milligrams -- about 1 teaspoon -- of salt a day. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease; African Americans; and anyone over the age of 51are told to limit salt even more, to just 1,500 milligrams. That's about a half teaspoon of salt daily.
Considering that salt is an ingredient in just about every type of processed food or restaurant meal, it's no wonder most Americans are getting double -- or triple -- the amount of sodium they need each day. Just 8 ounces of tomato soup can have as much as 1,200 milligrams of sodium. Three ounces of ham can have more than 1,000 milligrams. And 1 ounce of pretzels or 2 tablespoons of salad dressing can pack upwards of 500 milligrams of sodium.
Salt may add flavor to your food, but getting too much of it can also cut years from your life. Studies have linked a high-salt diet to increased risk of high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Research also has shown that reducing the salt in your diet may help lower those risks.
Low-Sodium Meals: How to Cut the Salt in Your Cooking
It is possible to limit the salt in your meals without sacrificing the flavor of your food. Here are three low-sodium cooking tips to help you make healthy, delicious meals that are good for your heart:
- Keep it real. Processed foods are often loaded with extra salt. That's because salt acts as a preservative. Cooking your own meals from scratch is the best way to control how much sodium goes into your food. Cookbooks and the Internet are full of easy low-sodium recipes that take all of the guesswork out of cooking. Opt for fresh fruits or vegetables instead of canned. Choose fresh poultry, fish, and meat instead of processed or smoked varieties. For side dishes, make brown rice or whole baked potatoes instead of instant or flavored rice or mashed potatoes. If you have to use canned foods, such as tuna, veggies, or beans, rinse the contents beforehand to wash away some of the sodium.
- Become a label reader. Scour every food label for sodium content. Look for products labeled "sodium-free" (less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving), "very low sodium" (35 milligrams or less per serving), or "no salt added." Watch out for broths, dressings, soy sauce, bouillon cubes, meat tenderizers, seasoned salts, and condiments (mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce), which are notoriously high in salt. Watch for additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, and sodium benzoate, which are all sodium compounds.
- Don't follow directions. When a recipe calls for even a pinch of salt, replace it with another herb or spice. You can try rosemary, marjoram, thyme, tarragon, onion or garlic powder, curry powder, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, ginger, cilantro, bay leaf, oregano, dry mustard, or dill.