Heart Health: What’s salt got to do with it?

Posted by on Feb 1, 2017

Late last year, new dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stressed that all Americans are still consuming too much salt.

Eating a high-salt diet can lead to high blood pressure, which is a contributor to heart disease.

So how much salt is safe to consume daily? For healthy individuals (ages 2 and up), the recommendation is about one teaspoon per day (less than 2,300 milligrams). If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, you should reduce that amount more – to 3/4 of a teaspoon per day (1,500 milligrams).

While it may seem easy to control such small amounts, the fact is that most (more than 75 percent) of the salt we consume doesn’t come from our own kitchens but from eating out at restaurants and from processed foods purchased at grocery stores. Processed foods are those that have been changed from their original, raw form in some way – such as through canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration or milling.

Due to not recognizing these hidden amounts of salt, people have difficulty determining just how much salt they actually consume. What’s a hungry person to do? Below are some quick tips to help you get a handle on salt intake.

Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake

  • Generally, avoid the following foods: all smoked or salted meats (bacon, hot dogs, deli meats and sausage); Chinese restaurant foods that contain salt, soy sauce and MSG; instant soups and canned soups; pickles and olives; processed cheeses; commercially prepared condiments (ketchup, barbeque sauce, mayo, salad dressing, steak sauce); salted fish and caviar; snack foods such as chips, popcorn, pretzels and crackers, and salted nuts.
  • When you can, cook from scratch using fresh fruits, vegetables and meats – instead of buying processed foods (such as frozen dinners and canned soups).
  • If you do buy processed foods, locate the Nutrition Facts Label on the package and choose the product that contains the lowest milligrams of sodium. For example, 120 mg or less of sodium per serving is low, while 480 mg or more is high.
  • Choose products that clearly specify lower amounts of sodium. Listed below are industry phrases (and their meanings) that indicate lower-sodium amounts:
    •    Salt/Sodium-Free → Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
    •    Very Low Sodium → 35 mg of sodium or less per serving
    •    Low Sodium → 140 mg of sodium or less per serving
    •    Reduced Sodium → At least 25% less sodium than in the original product
    •    Light in Sodium or Lightly Salted → At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
    •    No-Salt-Added or Unsalted → No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium-free.
  • Check the Nutrition Facts Label to be sure!