Salt Sense and the Salty Six

It is no secret that the typical American diet tends to be high in sodium. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the average American consumes over 3400 mg of sodium a day. For healthy individuals, the recommendations are to limit sodium to no more than 2300 mg a day, the equivalent of a single teaspoon of salt. Between processed foods and restaurant options, the amount of sodium ingested easily adds up. And that does not even consider the extra sodium that may be added courtesy of the salt shaker. ­­Excessive sodium intake may contribute to high blood pressure, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Get in front of potential health problems and acknowledge Salt Awareness Week March 13 through March 19th.

The American Heart Association has identified six foods that contribute the highest amount sodium in the typical American diet. Each food individually may not be loaded with sodium, but consider the frequency to which these foods are consumed on a daily basis. If you are trying to reduce your salt intake, keep an eye on what the American Heart Association calls The Salty Six:

  1. Breads and Rolls: On average, a single slice of bread may contain on average, 100 to 200 mg of sodium. One bagel may contain up to 500 mg of sodium. Consider replacing breads and rolls at some meals with whole grains like whole grain cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, or barley.
  2. Cold Cuts & Cured Meats: One 2 oz. serving, or 6 thin slices of deli meat can contain as much as half of your daily recommended sodium intake. Opt for lower sodium deli meat and watch portion sizes. “Beef” up you sandwich with fresh vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados.
  3. Pizza: Between the crust, sauce, and toppings, a single slice of pizza can make a huge dent towards recommended sodium levels. Try to avoid extra cheese and meats on pizza and add vegetables instead. Enjoy with a large vegetable salad to balance out the sodium. Or try this Spinach Pizza with just 488 mg sodium per serving.
  4. Soup: The sodium in one cup of canned soup can range from 100-940 mg of salt. Check the labels when purchasing pre-made soups and select lower sodium brands. Or better yet, prepare a big pot of homemade soup. Try this White Bean and Kale Soup that is packed with protein, fiber and just 306 mg sodium per serving.
  5. Sandwiches and Burgers: Sad but true, a sandwich or burger from a restaurant can cause sodium intake to skyrocket. Use the nutrition facts information available at many restaurants and peruse the menu to identify lower sodium items. Don’t forget to consider condiments that can boost sodium content up even further. This heart healthy Chicken and Avocado Sandwich is packed with protein, healthy fats and has just 422 mg of sodium.
  6. Burritos and Tacos: Because of their popularity, the American Heart Association singled out these Tex-Mex staples as a major contributor of sodium in the American diet. Choose burritos and tacos that are full of veggies and lean sources of protein. Relish in these tasty Shrimp Tacos. Seasoned seasoned with cayenne and chili powder, this shrimp recipe provides just 326 mg of sodium per serving.

Just a few more helpful tips for Salt Awareness Week:

  • Read the Nutrition Facts label while shopping to find foods that have less than 5% of the daily value of sodium per serving. Try to limit those processed foods high in sodium.
  • Choose foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium,” or “no salt added” when buying packaged or prepared foods.
  • Enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce, and canned vegetables with no added salt.
  • Consider eating more meals at home and when eating out, explore lower sodium options.
  • Use more herbs and spices instead of salt when cooking.

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