Is "No Added Salt" Your Nutrition Prescription?
YaQutullah Ibraheem MS, RD, LD, Member of MANA Health Task Force
Sodium is a mineral found naturally in food. Table salt is the most significant source of sodium in the American diet. Table salt contains approximately 40% sodium. Processed, convenience, and preserved foods also contain a large amount of sodium used as part of the preservation process used to increase shelf-life. Consuming an excess of sodium can result in high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and water retention. Decreasing your sodium can reduce water retention and the risk of heart attack or stroke related to high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association and the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is best to limit your dietary sodium to less than 2300 mg 2.3 g (less than about 1 teaspoon daily).
Sixty-five million Americans have high blood pressure, (1) another 45 million people have
“prehypertension,” (2) and about 90 percent of Americans will eventually develop
Hypertension (3). African Americans’ rate of hypertension is 60 percent greater, and rate
of stroke deaths is 40 percent greater, than that of the general population (4).
General Dietary Guidelines:
General guidelines for sodium consumption included not adding additional table salt to foods when served, reading food labels and selecting foods that contain less than 500 mg of sodium per serving, limiting processed foods (cookies, salted nuts, chips, frozen foods, etc), consulting your physician before using a salt substitute or a sodium containing medication such as antacids. Additional guidelines include limiting smoked or processed meats, commercial soups and bouillon, soft drinks and other beverages sweetened with sodium saccharin or softened water, Garlic, onion, and celery salts. One way to prepare for better health is to plan your meals in advance as well as your visits to the grocery store. Be sure to use a shopping list, do not shop when you are hungry, compare the labels of similar products and choose products with less than 500 mg per serving of Sodium.
Remember you can also meet with a Registered Dietitian who can answer diet related questions as well as help you develop a meal plan based on your nutritional needs.
Sodium Claims on Food labels:
- Sodium free: Less than 5 mg sodium per serving
- Salt free: Meets requirements for sodium free
- Low sodium: 140 mg sodium or less per serving
- Very low sodium: 35 mg or less sodium per serving
- Reduced Sodium: At least 25% less sodium when compared with a reference food
- Light in sodium: 50% less sodium per serving, restricted to foods with more than 40 calories per serving or more than 3 g of fat per serving (if pertaining to sodium content). Food items light in sodium have no salt is added during processing.
- Unsalted, without added salt, No salt added: The label bears the statement “not a sodium free food” or “not for control of sodium in the diet” if the food is not sodium free.
Snacking is recommended between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner because it helps to maintain blood glucose levels and well as helps you not to over eat at meal times. The key to snacking is choosing healthy low sodium, nutrient dense food items. If you snack throughout the day, prepare and pack healthy snacks with you to work or while running errands. Instead of potato chips, cheetos, and other snacks high in sodium, consider healthier options such as unsalted popcorn, crackers with unsalted tops, and low sodium peanut butter, Halal/ Kosher jello cups, rice cakes, fruit slices with yogurt or cottage cheese for dipping, fresh vegetables and a low sodium dip.
Tips for Eating Out and Fast Foods:
“Fast foods” are often higher in sodium when compared with items prepared at home. If you do eat out, be sure to make healthy choices including Halal/Kosher lean meats that are baked, grilled or broiled. Lettuce, tomato, and low-fat mayonnaise may be added. Foods served in restaurants may be seasoned with salt or MSG. Be sure to request that food is prepared without salt. Good choices are broiled or roasted meats, fish, or poultry without sauces or gravies. Order your baked potato and salads with condiments and dressing on the side. Choose fresh fruits and sherbet for dessert. They are lower in sodium than most other desserts.
Alternate seasoning options:
There are many seasonings that may be used in place of salt to spice up your meals. For beef, poultry, fish and game meats, you can use bay leaves, garlic, ginger, pepper, dill, rosemary, sage and oregano among others. Add a little spike to vegetable dishes by adding fresh peppers, cardamom, caraway, lemon juice, parsley, onion, celery. Enhance flavor of breads and grains by adding turmeric, paprika, mint, and sesame seeds. You may also add almond extract and vanilla extract to fruit items. Be sure to have a little fun with your favorite food items and test out which seasonings work best for you.
One way to begin is to know where you stand and make adjustments as necessary. Everyone has to eat, but you can eat healthy and significantly reduce dietary sodium consumption when you plan accordingly. Your healthy is your wealth so invest in it!
1. Fields LE, Burt VL, Cutler JA, et al. The Burden of Adult Hypertension in the United States 1999 to 2000: A Rising Tide.
Hypertension. 2004; 44:398-404.
2. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, et al. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. JAMA. 2003; 289:2560-72.
3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. NHLBI Issues new high blood pressure clinical practice guidelines. News release. May 14, 2003.
4. Vasan RS, Beiser A, Shsadri S. Residual lifetime risk for developing hypertension in middle-aged women and men. JAMA. 2002; 287:1003-10.
For Your Interest:
Other Information and Web Sites
American Heart Association: Make Healthy Food Choices
USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans-2005
USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans-2005
YaQutullah Ibrahee MS, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian currently working with Dekalb Medical Center. She completed a Masters in Health Sciences and Undergraduate degree in Nutrition at Georgia State University and enjoys promoting health and wellness, weight loss counseling and nutrition education.
She is also a member of MANA's Health Task Force and Secertary of the SHARE Atlanta Board of Directors. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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