Alberg, a Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian,
shares her perspective on the dangers of a high-sodium diet as
well as her recommendations for lessening daily intake.
look at my daughters, I am struck by their resemblance to
other family members but not to each other. One daughter has
hazel eyes. Another has blue. And the youngest has green eyes.
While my daughters do not look like each other, they share a
family health history loaded with high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. They cannot
change their family history, but they can focus on the
importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
mother and dietitian, reducing sodium in our familys diet
has been a priority. Sodium intake is associated with
increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and
stroke. The average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams
of sodium daily. In contrast, the American Heart Association
recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 1,500
milligrams. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300
milligrams. Just one teaspoon of table salt (a combination of
sodium and chloride) contains approximately 2,300 milligrams
sodium in the American diet comes from processed foods,
prepackaged foods and restaurant food. The rest comes from
adding sodium in cooking or in seasoning at the table. Sodium
is a mineral that naturally occurs in foods. However, a celery
stalk might contain 30 to 50 milligrams of sodium much
lower than a serving of canned soup exceeding 1,000 milligrams
Food and Drug Administration is working with food companies
and restaurants to decrease the amount of sodium in our diet.
If you are ready to make changes in your diet to reduce your
sodium intake, here are some tips to get you started:
Limit the salt added in cooking.
the salt shaker off the table, or at least taste your food
before adding salt.
Check your seasonings for sodium/salt. Flavored peppers, such
as garlic pepper, often contain salt. Look for pepper without
salt. Use garlic powder; onion powder; celery powder; or fresh
garlic, onion and celery in place of garlic, onion and celery
salts. Be aware that MSG is a common flavor enhancer that also
Experiment with herbs and spices for flavor as your taste buds
adjust. Dont forget to try citrus, vinegars or hot sauce.
a homemade or purchased salt-free herb/spice blend.
Explore seasonings and recipes featuring flavors from other
aware that condiments, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, chili
sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, dips and dressings, are
usually high in sodium/salt. Use these additives sparingly.
Limit portions of pickles, relish and olives.
Limit use of prepackaged and processed foods. Convenience
foods, such as an instant cereal packet, often contain salt.
Make your own cooked cereal from scratch, and you can omit or
you use convenience foods that come with a seasoning packet,
consider using your own low-salt seasoning, or use only a
portion of the seasoning packet provided. Look for items
labeled "low-sodium" or "no salt added."
Aim for products with no more than 200 milligrams of sodium
for vegetables that are fresh, frozen without sauces or canned
without added salt. If using a canned vegetable with salt, you
can drain and rinse before using. Limit portions of sauerkraut
and pickled vegetables.
Check your family recipes, and look for ways to decrease salt.
Our family lasagna recipe, from the 1960s, is high in salt if
the original recipe is followed. We now omit added salt, use
fresh or no-salt-added tomatoes, and decrease the amount of
cheese used. The lighter version allows the other flavors to
Check family holiday meals for salt. Consider adjusting
recipes and menus. Increase use of low-salt vegetables and
side dishes, salads and fruits to balance the meal. If your
meal includes a favorite, such as green bean casserole,
challenge yourself to try a flavorful, but lower-salt, version
you can enjoy.
Dining out is a common source of salt. Try to order foods
prepared without added salt. Order salad dressing on the side,
and control the amount used. Sauces and gravies also can be
ordered on the side. Try to order vegetables, salads and
fruits. Limit pickles, olives and salty chips. Use small
portions of ketchup or other condiments with salt. Know that
processed meats, such as brats, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and
ham, contain high amounts of salt. Plan ahead, and choose
low-salt meals and snacks the rest of your day to limit total
said reducing sodium intake would be easy. Allow time for your
taste buds to adjust to a lower-salt diet, because taste for
salt is an acquired habit. With time, its common for people
to prefer a lower-salt diet, and many indicate former favorite
foods now are too salty for their palate.