So, what should we eat to lower our salt intake?
In general, we should all be eating more fresh foods. Follow an eating plan, such as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), that is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts.
Compared to the typical American diet, the DASH plan contains less salt and sodium, and contains fewer sweets, added sugars, sugar-containing beverages, fats and red meats. It's also well-balanced, providing nutrients and fiber that we all need to stay healthy.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers a diet based on a daily intake of 2,300 mg of sodium, and it gives additional suggestions for those who need to lower their sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less a day.
Can we use nutrition labels to determine what foods we can and can’t eat?
Yes. Check the nutrition facts for the number of milligrams of sodium contained in one serving of the food. Be aware that a package may contain more than one serving.
The daily value of sodium, which is listed as a percentage on the label, is not as useful as the actual number of milligrams of sodium because it is based on an intake of 2,400 mg of sodium a day, which is higher than most of us need. The nutrition facts label will probably be revised in the future to reflect these new guidelines.
Won't food with less salt taste bland and boring?
That's a matter of perception. Many consumers who see "low sodium" on a food product automatically think it'll taste bland, but, if they took a blind taste test, they might not notice a difference.
Research also suggests that your taste buds will adjust after a few months of consuming less salt, and you’ll enjoy your meals as much as before.
You can also increase the flavor of your dishes you make by using spices and herbs instead of salt.
Should we use salt substitutes (such as light salt, "low sodium" salt or "no sodium" salt)?
Unless your dietitian or doctor recommends it, don’t use them. Sometimes the ratio of sodium to potassium in these products is not beneficial to your health.
Reproduced from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
CDC. "Vital Signs: Food Categories Contributing the Most to Sodium Consumption — United States, 2007–2008" Available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm61e0207a1.htm?s_cid=mm61e0207a1_w Accessed on: February 10, 2012.
FDA. "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21." Available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=101.61 Accessed on February 15, 2012.