Eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Limiting salt (sodium) is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that:
- Healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt)
- Most adults ideally have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day
Although reducing the amount of salt you add to food at the table or while cooking is a good first step, much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods, such as soups, baked goods and frozen dinners. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.
Low-salt items to choose:
- Herbs and spices
- Salt-free seasoning blends
- Canned soups or prepared meals with no added salt or reduced salt
- Reduced-salt versions of condiments, such as reduced-salt soy sauce and reduced-salt ketchup
On most foods, there is a Nutrition Facts label. This will tell you how much sodium is in one serving of food. Look at both the serving size and determine the amount. The serving size is located at the top of the label, usually right under the “Nutrition Facts” title. The amount of sodium is given in the list under the title. It is given in milligrams (mg). Check the serving size carefully. A single serving is often very small, and you may eat more than one serving. If this is the case, you will eat more than listed on the label.
If you like the convenience of canned soups and prepared meals, look for ones with no added salt or reduced sodium. Be wary of foods that claim to be lower in sodium because they are seasoned with sea salt instead of regular table salt — sea salt has the same nutritional value as regular salt.
Another way to reduce the amount of salt you eat is to choose your condiments carefully. Many condiments are available in reduced-sodium versions, and salt substitutes can add flavor to your food with less sodium. Using lemons and lemon juice as an alternative to salt is a great way to brighten up the flavor of your food. Lemon juice pairs well with chicken, fish, vegetables, and even yogurt and desserts. Want even more lemony flavor? Just sprinkle on some lemon zest. And if you really love a lemony flavor, add lemon juice or zest to your marinades.
Substituting salt and sodium-containing seasonings with herbs, spices and low-sodium condiments can help to reduce the amount of sodium that we use when cooking at home.