Breaking the Salt Habit

January 14, 2016

According to a 2015 report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salt still remains one of the major health hazards of American diets. Despite an increase of awareness of the dangers of high salt usage, little has changed over the last ten years. More than 90 percent of children and 89 percent of adults consume more sodium than is recommended, almost twice as much. An excess of salt can lead to high blood pressure which raises the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack and stroke. Heart disease and stroke kill more Americans every year than any other cause. In fact, cardiovascular diseases claim more than 800,000 lives each year in the United States. In addition to high blood pressure, salt consumption causes fluid retention by absorbing water and other fluids in the body , placing additional stress on the liver and aggravating kidney problems. It also increases water retention and can cause swelling, or edema. Finally, many arthritis specialists believe that there are trigger foods -- including salt -- which reduce potassium levels and further exacerbate the condition. This is not a new concern, in 2013 the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report that advised that a fifty percent reduction in dietary salt could save 150,000 lives a year from strokes, heart attacks and other illnesses. In 2012, CDC found that excess sodium consumption is a problem across all groups - regardless of gender, race or health status. Although sodium consumption exceeds recommended limits in all age groups, it peaks between the ages of 19-50 - along with calorie consumption. They also found that among people at higher risk of heart disease or stroke, more than 3 out of 4 consume more than the recommended limit of per day! That recommended limit of salt for people aged 14 years and older is 2,300 mg of sodium per day -- 1 tsp of salt. Less is recommended for children 14 years of age and younger. Unfortunately, salt is so over-used in our standard food sources that many of us cannot imagine eating without it. Here are a few tips to get you started!
  • Cooking from scratch will allow you to avoid much of the salt in your diet.  You can reduce the amount used and slowly cut more salt out as you became accustomed to a less prominent salt taste.
  • If you buy processed foods, check for items low in sodium. Buy products that are “sodium free” or  have less than 100 mg per serving.
  • Restaurant meals can contain 3,000 mg of sodium or more, look for low-sodium items on the menu. Ask if your meal can be prepared without salt.
  • Put away the salt shaker!
  • Many herbs are excellent replacements for salt when cooking.  Try using pepper, basil, thyme, or garlic in your favorite recipes
  • Choose snacks low in sodium like fruits and vegetables. Avoid salty snacks such as pretzels and potato chips.
Reducing your salt intake is difficult, but you'll be happy you did. You'll embark on a delicious adventure into new cuisine while improving your health!

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