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Ask an Expert - Salt Intake

I hear a lot about how too much salt can cause a problem for your heart and how fast food has a lot of salt. I want to keep my family healthy, but we are a busy group and always on the go. What are some ways that we can cut back on the salt and eat more healthfully when we are on the go.
Ask an Expert - Salt Intake

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By Elizabeth Hilliard, M.S. R.D., Assistant Professor of Practice Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

Salt has been linked with high blood pressure in many studies. High blood pressure is one factor that can lead to heart disease. Salt also has been linked with calcium loss in the urine, which may play a role in developing osteoporosis or thin bones. In more recent studies, a link has been found between high sodium intake and decreased levels of vitamin D, which is an important nutrient, especially in bone health. The American Heart Association recommends sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams per day.

But how do you know how much salt you are eating? One way to start is by reading food labels. On the Nutrition Facts panel of the food lave, the sodium content of the food is listed in units called milligrams (mg) and is the amount present in one serving of the food. A low-sodium food is any food with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving. Foods that are typically high in sodium are processed foods, such as canned foods (soups, canned pasta, candied vegetables and vegetable juices), frozen foods (microwave dinners, frozen entrees), lunch meats and hotdogs, snack crackers and chips, condiments (ketchup, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, pickles), fast food and seasonings (table salt, garlic salt, seasoned salt).

Here are some easy ways to cut back on the salt:

  • Add other seasonings such as pepper, sodium-free lemon peppers, Mrs. Dash and other herb blends to season food instead of salt.
  • Look for low-sodium varieties of ketchup, or read labels and buy salad dressings with lower sodium levels.
  • Look for low-sodium varieties of canned vegetables, soups, and pastas.
  • Rinse canned vegetables under water before cooking to get rid of extra salt.
  • When eating at fast-food restaurants, order a small burger or small order of chicken nuggets and eat a salad ( go easy on the dressing because this is also high in sodium or fruit cup as a side dish.
  • Many fast-food restaurants will allow you to order french fries unsalted.
  • If you are going to be busy, take some fresh fruit or vegetables as snacks so you aren't stuck with having to buy high-sodium foods when you are not at home.
  • Buy unsalted crackers.
  • If you need to use frozen meals or processed foods, read labels and choose the ones that have the least amount of sodium. Use smaller portions of these foods at meals and offer them with frozen steam-cooked vegetables and fresh or canned fruits that are low in sodium.
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