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Toss your salt habit away

Too much salt?Yes, you probably know that salt is not the healthiest ingredient to use in recipes, but sometimes it's unavoidable for food to taste its best. But how much salt can we consume on a daily basis before our bodies are peppered with health risks?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), healthy adults should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium - a primary element in salt - per day. Unfortunately, most individuals consume more than 3,000 mg of sodium a day, resulting in the following health risks:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Increased weight

"Unfortunately, sodium is in a lot of the foods we eat," says Jaclyn Ilyse Bennett, a Virtua dietititian. "Any food that is processed has a lot of sodium. Restaurants, in particular, use a lot of salt for flavoring and preserving food. So adding salt on top of any food can be really unhealthy."

How bad can a few sprinkles of salt be, you may ask? Well, just one teaspoon of salt has more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium - nearly twice as much as the ADA recommends.

You can reduce your sodium (salt) intake by doing the following:

  • Avoid using table salt as much as possible
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed products
  • Use salt substitutes, herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in recipes
  • Check restaurant websites for a nutritional analysis to help you choose which food options are healthy and low in sodium
  • Tell your waiter how you want your food prepared and request that it be cooked without salt
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt
  • Buy low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added, products

In addition, read package labels carefully when selecting foods. Package labels provide nutritional information - including sodium content - to help you make smart choices.

"If a food has been packaged with a label, watch out because it probably has been processed and could have excessive amounts of sodium," says Bennett. "Fresh fruits, veggies and meats are always better options. Look for food that is less than 140 milligrams per serving. Food that is more than 300 milligrams is considered high."

The following are some examples of common foods that are low and high in sodium. Make sure to check the label to determine the amount of sodium as amounts can vary from one brand to another.

Low sodium foods

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Milk
  • Eggs or egg substitutes
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal (not instant)
  • Cheese (low-sodium options)
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Whole grain bread
  • Bagels
  • Flour tortillas
  • Rice
  • Unsalted peanut butter
  • Unsalted popcorn

High sodium foods
  • Canned pasta
  • Canned or prepared soups
  • Cold cereals (boxed)
  • Frozen dinners
  • Instant potatoes
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Meats, poultry and fish that are salted, smoked, canned, spiced or cured
  • Canned vegetables
  • Carbonated beverages with sodium added
  • Peanut Butter (regular)
  • Pizza
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels

Bennett adds: "There are many options to enrich flavors in foods that are not harmful to your health. Try seasoning with a variety of herbs, spices, onions, pepper, lemon juice or even use a salt substitute like Mrs. Dash."

Receive nutrition counseling from an expert dietitian
Virtua's registered dietitians assist individuals of all ages in making healthier choices by developing a food plan tailored to their needs. A registered dietitian can design a food plan based on lifestyle, activity level, weight, medical history and more.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823).

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