Adapted from the Nutrition and You! blog at Boston.com
According to research from Mintel, about six out of every 10 Americans are trying to watch the sodium in their diet by cutting back on the amount of salt that they cook with and use to season their foods at the table. Unfortunately, you have a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure at some point in your life, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Typically, the higher your sodium intake, the higher your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
While it appears that Americans are getting more watchful about their sodium intake, we are still consuming more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended daily and almost seven times the small amount that is actually needed daily for our bodies to function properly. Cutting back on the amount of salt you use in the kitchen is a good first step, but unfortunately, over 75 percent of the sodium we consume sneaks in from processed foods. In addition to retiring the salt shaker, we need to also be more watchful about the amount of processed foods we are eating.
Luckily, many food companies are trying to help the cause by reducing the amount of sodium that they put in their products. For example, General Mills has reformulated more than 250 products, such as canned vegetables, soups, and cereals, to lower the sodium per serving. It currently has a corporate plan in place to lower sodium by 20 percent, on average, across many of its products by 2015, according to Juli Hermanson, senior nutrition scientist at General Mills.
To help you reduce the amount of sodium you consume from processed foods, the AHA has published a new book, “Eat Less Salt,” with plenty of tips and tricks. Here are some of its Sodium-Saving Solutions aisle by aisle in the supermarket:
In the seafood aisle:
Frozen shrimp is often processed with a preservative that can jack up sodium to over 800 milligrams per serving. Find the shrimp with the least amount and buy the less salty fresh variety when you can.
Shellfish tends to be higher in sodium than other fish so don’t season it with salt or use salty marinades when cooking.
In the poultry and meat aisle:
Beware that “all natural” poultry may be injected with salt and/or broth. A teaspoon of salt provides 2,300 milligrams of sodium and a cup of broth provides a whopping 860 to 980 milligrams per cup. Check the label before you buy it.
Skip marinades, which can coat your poultry and meat with 340 to 610 milligrams of sodium for each tablespoon used. Use no-salt-added rubs for flavor.
In the dairy aisle:
Cottage cheese is high in sodium so consider nonfat Greek yogurt for a snack.
While natural cheeses are salty, they have less than cheese products or processed cheeses. Use a cheese plane to keep your portion to one paper-thin slice.
In the salad dressing aisle:
Fat-free salad dressing tends to have more sodium than full-fat or low-fat equivalents. Buy the full-fat variety and dilute a tablespoon of it with an equal part of balsamic vinegar. Two tablespoons of this new combo dressing will have less sodium and fat than if you were to use 2 tablespoons of the bottled dressing.
Skip seasoned croutons, which can add 200 milligrams of sodium per ½ cup.