Have you thought about cutting back on the amount of sodium your family eats? The USDA recommends that all adults consume no more than 2300 mg. of sodium a day. That’s one measly teaspoon of salt. Middle-aged and older adults, blacks, and those with hypertension (high blood pressure) or pre-hypertension should limit salt even more, to 1500 milligrams daily. The reason? Eating too much salt puts you at higher risk for heart disease.
Salt is essential for our diets, but most of us eat much more than we need. The average daily intake in the US is 3436 milligrams. And more than half of Americans have hypertension or prehypertension.
People who often eat out in restaurants, or rely on canned or processed foods, may be eating too much salt. If you cook at home, using less salt may be easier than you think. My husband learned this after we had been married for a while. Foods he used to enjoy suddenly tasted too salty. According to this article from the Center for Disease Control: “A randomized trial showed that the perceived pleasantness of highly salted food was based on dietary habit and that this perception could be changed by gradual reduction of dietary intake of sodium.”
But eating less salt doesn’t mean giving up on tasty food. Here are some ideas for home cooks who want to lower the amount of sodium in food.
- Read ingredient and nutrition labels. Processing foods removes flavor, and salt is added to replace the lost freshness and taste. The vast majority of processed foods, including desserts, are high in sodium.
- Prepare foods while they are still fresh and flavorful. Follow guidelines for keeping food fresh as long as possible.
- Use sharp flavors like hot peppers, citrus juice and zest, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, herbs, spices, onions and vinegar. They are all healthy additions to tasty food.
- Discard liquid from salty canned foods like tuna, beans or vegetables. Beans and vegetables can be rinsed off.
- Don’t add salt to cooking water. Always taste and add salt at the end of cooking.
- Check out this list of tips for avoiding canned and powdered soup, which generally contain large amounts of sodium.
Salt is not usually essential in cooking. There are even pickling recipes that don’t call for salt. If you want to cut back on sodium, add a little less salt to your recipe and see if anyone notices. If they don’t say anything, great. If they do comment, try the same amount next time and see what happens. There’s a good chance their taste buds will have adjusted.
Of course, these tips don’t help much if the family adds it back at the table via the salt shaker. What suggestions do you have for breaking a salt-shaker habit?