Myth: The best way to cut salt is by avoiding the salt shaker

TRUTH: This is simple math. The Dietary Guidelines recommend we get 2300 mg or less per day (or, in some cases, 1500mmg). But most Americans get closer to 3500 mg every day, mostly from processed and prepared foods.

We all know that fast food and deli meats have a lot of added salt (for flavor and preservation), but there are other foods that may contribute more than you think.

Some of the culprits include:

  • Condiments - 2 tablespoons of soy sauce has about 1800 mg of sodium
  • Salad dressing - some have over 400 mg of salt in 2 tablespoons
  • Cheese - blue cheese has nearly 400 mg in a serving (1 oz.)
  • Soup- 1 cup (not much) of tomato soup can be around 700 mg

In some studies, processed foods contribute as much as 77% of the sodium in the average person’s diet. The CDC found that for most Americans, only 5% of sodium intake was attributed to salt added to home cooked meals and 6% to salt added at the table.  Basically, that means if you don’t eat a lot of processed food, you don’t have to try and limit your use of the shaker at the table.  Having some salt is important; it plays a role in cellular and nerve function.

BOTTOM LINE: Healthy eating is about knowing what’s in your food.  When reading ingredient lists, if you don’t recognize any of the words, put the product down!  Processed and packaged foods may contain a lot of salt, so choose low sodium versions and use them sparingly.  To reduce your salt intake ever more, learn to cook and season foods with spices, pepper, garlic and herbs (in lieu of salt).

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  1. Colorado State Extension: Sodium In the Diet
  2. Mayo Clinic: Why do processed foods contain so much sodium? http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/AN00350

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