The feedback from my podcast listeners was that episode #4 “Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake” was a little long but the tips offered were valuable. So, I decided to blog the “condensed” version of the podcast.
If you live in the United States, the odds are that you are getting more sodium in your daily diet than recommended by the Dietary Guidelines which is less than 2300 mg (about 1 tsp). The American Heart Association recommends less than 1500 mg because their guidelines are directed toward people with hypertension, heart disease or may have a higher risk of stroke. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) suggests that about 90% of Americans 2 years old or older exceed the Dietary Guidelines and consume too much sodium. The following tips will help you become aware of where sodium lurks and how to lower your intake.
Tip 1: Take the salt shaker off the table. This tip seems obvious but is often the hardest for people to accomplish. The habit of salting food is just that, a habit. I’ve seen people salt their food even before they have tasted it. Try replacing the salt shaker with pepper or another seasoning (Mrs. Dash has salt-free seasonings) that may be a suitable substitute.
Tip 2: Don’t salt while cooking. Try using other seasonings, fresh and dried. Initially, the foods may taste bland but try to focus on the actual flavor of the food and new seasonings. For example, fresh lemon squeezed over some fresh spinach tastes delicious, no salt needed. Letting your taste buds recover from being inundated by salt may take some time. For example, once I stopped using salt I have found that I cannot eat soup in a restaurant because it frequently is much too salty. Which leads me to tip 3.
Tip 3: Avoid eating out at restaurants or packaged foods. Both use large amounts of salt because as stated above, 90% of the people eat too much salt. You may be able to find low sodium options on the menu by asking your server for suggestions. Often people avoid obviously salty foods (e.g., french fries) and opt for foods that appear lower sodium but will have sodium lurking (e.g., marinara sauce, bread). Your best bet is dishes with fresh produce (salads, steamed veggies) and request dressings/sauces on the side and for plain, no-salt-added veggies, so you can control your intake.
Tip 4: Read labels. As discussed in VegHead Speaks “Getting Started” blog and podcast, reading Nutrition Facts labels is crucial to know what you are eating. Two tips offered by Dr. Greger in his book “How Not to Die” is to keep sodium milligrams (mg) less than grams per serving size. Or to keep sodium milligrams per serving less than calories per serving. The point is: read food labels.
Tip 5: Buy low sodium canned foods. Additionally, rinse your canned foods when possible. While you may lose a few nutrients with rinsing, you have to choose which you prefer. If lessening your sodium is the goal, rinse and certainly rinse if the food isn’t labeled low sodium. If you are eating a varied diet, rich in veggies, fruits, and whole grains, you are likely getting all of your nutrients and the few you lose with rinsing won’t be missed.
Tip 6: Eat food without labels. Foods without labels would be fruits and vegetables. However, I would include in this whole grains, while technically bagged brown rice, quinoa, dried beans/peas, have labels, you will find they don’t include sodium or other added ingredients normally. Even many frozen vegetables won’t include added ingredients, but you have to check the label to be certain.
I hope these tips help you become more aware of where salt is lurking in our foods. With a little effort, you should be able to reduce your sodium intake and regain control of your taste buds so that you can enjoy all the new flavors of your plant-based diet.
Enjoy salt-free eating,
Listen to VegHead Speaks Podcast #4 “Tips for Reducing Sodium” at https://anchor.fm/veghead-speaks/episodes/4-Tips-to-reduce-sodium-intake-e1nq2j/a-a4629e
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For more information on current research on sodium intake visit Dr. Greger’s nutritionfacts.org