It’s been well publicized for the past decade that we (Americans) eat way too much salt and that overdoing it can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other heart-related diseases. The problem is that salt is hidden everywhere, even in foods that you might not suspect, like salad dressings and chicken breast. So one of the first things a person needs to do is become an avid label-reader. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend less than 2,300 mg a day. If you’re over 51, have heart disease, are African American or have high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, you should limit it to under 1,500 mg. According to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the estimated average intake of sodium for Americans ages 2 years and older is approximately 3,400 mg per day, more than twice the recommended amount!
The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that 75 percent of the sodium in the average American diet comes from salt added to processed or restaurant foods, so think twice before you buy those heat-and-eat dinners in the supermarket freezer case and order that nachos grande or pepperoni pizza at your favorite eatery. Here are the worst sodium offenders – when eating out or at home:
Source: American Heart Association
These are the foods that we have had to eliminate and/or begin making at home so we know what’s in them. The big surprise for us, was #1 -BREAD! A slice of bread or bun can have as much as 360 mg of sodium, which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. We now make our own bread or buy brands such as Oasis or Ezekial that have low-sodium loafs – so far, I haven’t found any low sodium buns – if you know of any, please leave a comment!
Canned soup and a cold put Don in the hospital two years ago where he was diagnosed with pulmonary edema as a result congestive heart failure. We never eat soup out and I make my own vegetable or chicken broth or use the Low Sodium Organic Broth from Trader Joe’s sparingly. Cold cuts and cured meats were a no-brainer, but we often enjoyed an appetizer board of salumi with cheese and crackers, and that was hard to give up, too.
Pizza nearly qualifies as its own food group for me. When I’m out and about covering restaurants I can still indulge in the many chef interpretations of the pie. But at home it’s a different story, we can’t order take out anymore; I make my own pizza dough, have discovered low sodium cheeses and love experimenting with unique toppings. Try it – once you’ve made it a few times, it’s not that difficult and can be a lot of fun – you just have to plan ahead to allow the dough time to rise.
Poultry – no, I don’t grow my own chickens (although we did when I was a kid in NW Arkansas). Instead, I buy Coastal Range Organics Chicken from Costco and never buy pre-made or marinated chicken. When dining out you have to ask questions and avoid any poultry or meat dishes that have been marinated, cured, brined or, obviously, salt-crusted.
Salt as the hidden culprit is getting more and more attention – the Huffington Post recently named 8 Surprising High Sodium Foods – adding processed cheese, breakfast cereal, and condiments to the list.
Sounds kind of boring, but my mantra is “healthy food doesn’t have to be boring” and if your life depends on it, most people can make adjustments to lower their salt intake. Trust me, eating healthy does not have to be boring – there are so many ways to add flavor to meals without relying on salt – read my Top 10 naturally delicious salt substitutes, which includes recipes to help you get started. Fortunately, I have always cooked and included lots of fruits and vegetables in our meals, it’s worth the effort to keep your loved ones at the table, don’t you think?
If you’re new to my website you may not know that my focus is on heart healthy and low sodium, so please, take a look a look around and discover some tasty recipes to start freeing yourself from sodium! My 10 Heart Healthy, Low Sodium Recipes to Stay Healthy All Year is a great place to start and below are a few more photos to whet your appetite that are popular on Pinterest and have been featured around the web.