Your health will benefit from fewer grains of salt. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new targets this week on the amount of sodium that can be added to processed and prepared foods. While the FDA recommended that companies cut back 12% over the next two and half years, even that seemingly slight reduction of added salt in the American diet can save lives.
“Too much sodium is making people sick,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the FDA, according to NPR. “It’s leading to hypertension, strokes, and even kidney damage, and it’s preventable.”
Americans consume 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily on average, mostly from the excess salt found in packaged foods and prepared meals. More than 70% of the sodium Americans consume comes from these items and not from the saltshaker at home. The U.S. government’s recommendation is that we should not consume more than 2,300 mg daily, which is about one teaspoon of salt.
Here are eight foods/food groups to pay attention to when reducing the amount of sodium in your diet:
- Breads and rolls. According to the Harvard Health Letter, while bread contains only 100 mg to 200 mg of sodium per slice, we eat so much of it that experts say swapping your breakfast bagel for a cup of wholesome oatmeal is a good choice. Hold the breadbasket at dinner and serve whole grains like barley or quinoa instead.
- Pizza. Our favorite Italian treat is loaded with sodium in the crust, sauce, and cheese. Adding pepperoni or another cured meat raises the amount of salt even higher. Make your own pizza at home with a prepared whole wheat or cauliflower crust, low-sodium tomato or pizza sauce, and top with fresh veggies.
- Cold cuts and processed meats. These sandwich fillings are not only loaded with salt, but also contain sodium nitrate as a preservative. Avoid salami, bacon, ham, and sausage and slice your own deli meats from freshly roasted chicken or turkey breast.
- Soups. Read labels! Some brands of prepared canned or packaged soups can have almost 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. There are many low-sodium varieties available but it’s best to make your own soup from scratch to ensure the best health benefits.
- Fruits and vegetables. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends buying more fresh produce instead of packaged treats. When buying canned vegetables look for low-sodium or no-salt products.
- Snack foods. Harvard Health advises looking for low-salt versions of favorite snacks such as chips, popcorn, pretzels, or crackers.
- Cheese. Here again, it is important to read labels. While the amount of salt in cheese varies, feta and blue cheese have the most, and goat cheese and ricotta usually have the least. Learn to sprinkle less grated cheese on your food.
- Eggs and omelets. An egg has only 62 mg of sodium, but it tends to get saltier in preparation. For example, a sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese contains a whopping 830 mg of sodium! Make your own poached eggs at home or buy ready-cooked hard boiled eggs for convenience.
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