From processed meats in your local deli to cheeseburgers from popular fast food restaurant chains, the diets of American households are loaded with sodium. In fact, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is significantly higher than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 mg per day.
Why all the fuss about sodium?
Diets high in sodium are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in all Americans, and stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and a top cause of long-term disability.
The American Heart Association estimates that if the U.S. population reduced its sodium intake to the recommended 1,500 mg per day, there would be a savings of more than $236 billion in healthcare spending and a 25.6 percent decrease in the prevalence of high blood pressure. That would be a huge impact on our local community, where one in three residents suffer from high blood pressure.
Sodium reduction is easier than many may think. To help get you on the track to a heart-healthy diet with the correct amount of sodium, follow these few, simple tips when preparing meals and making decisions in the grocery store.
Avoid over-processed deli meats.
It may be easier to pick up the prepackaged turkey from the meat department at your local grocery store, but many processed meats contain exorbitant amounts of sodium due to the salt added to maintain its freshness.
For a healthier alternative, look to your fresh-cut deli meats. Local grocery stores offer a variety of options, including deli meats that have been certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association. Just look for the heart healthy check mark on the packaging.
Read the nutrition labels.
There is nothing more important when making a healthy decisions than reading the nutrition label. Sodium can go by many names when listed on a label, so look for salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate when factoring how much salt is in a product.
Common foods loaded with sodium include canned goods like beans and tomatoes, prepared salad dressing, condiments and even some soups. When shopping, look for products that are listed as low-sodium or reduced sodium.
The closer to nature, the healthier the product.
While it may be easier to pick up canned vegetables, many of these items are canned in a sodium solution to retain flavor and extend the product’s shelf life. The best way to prevent needless sodium in your diet is to prepare fresh vegetables instead of canned. An easy alternative to fresh vegetables would be frozen vegetables, which have no sodium. If the only option is canned, drain the sodium solution and rinse with water before preparing the vegetables in water. Doing this can reduce the amount of sodium in the product by 40 percent.
Try low or no sodium spices to add flavor to your meals.
There are plenty of alternatives to salt that can help add great flavor to your meals. Basil, curry powder, onion powder, paprika and parsley are great additions to fish and lean meats. Chives, garlic and dill also add flavor to soups, vegetables and other side dishes.
For a sweeter seasoning, try adding cinnamon to fruits, breads and pie crusts. Ginger, nutmeg and peppermint extract also go well with fruit.
Keeping up with small changes in your sodium intake will lead to a significant reduction in sodium consumption over time. For more information about the American Heart Association’s sodium recommendations, visit Heart.org/Sodium.