If you’re like many Americans who reach for the salt shaker even before you taste your food, then it may seem daunting to meet your doctor’s recommendation to limit salt in your diet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, processed foods account for, on average, about 77% of our daily salt intake. Twelve percent come from natural sources, and the remaining 11% come from cooking and the table’s salt shaker. With a combination of common sense and cleverness, flavor doesn’t have to suffer if you have salt smarts:
• Avoid high-sodium foods such as soy sauce, salsa, bouillon, ketchup, barbecue and steak sauces, salad dressing, marinades, canned vegetables, beans and soup and snack chips or crackers. Cut back on frozen entrées or opt for low-sodium versions, or prepare meals from scratch.
• Hold the salt: Do not cook with salt, but rather, sprinkle a pinch on food at the end of cooking. Or, to wean yourself slowly off salt, add less and less salt over your favorite foods so that, in time, you omit it altogether. The only exception: baked goods. At restaurants, request the kitchen staff prepare your entrée without additional salt.
• Be vigilant and read labels and do the math on processed foods to make sure you’re making smart choices. It’s wisest to purchase fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and meats without added salt. Look for labels that say very low-sodium (each serving contains 35 milligrams or less per serving), low-sodium (140 milligrams or less) or reduced-sodium (usual sodium level is reduced by 25%).
• Throw out the salt shaker altogether, or remove it from the dinner table.
• Experiment with spices to boost flavor in your food without the addition of salt, or add lemon, garlic and herbs.
• Always rinse beans and other canned vegetables before cooking to omit some salt.
• On food labels, look for these “hidden” high-sodium ingredients: sodium chloride (table salt), monosodium glutamate, sodium citrate, sodium nitrate, sodium sulfite and sodium carbonate (found in baking soda).
• Use unsalted butter or better still, olive oil, the best heart-healthy option.
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