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Wednesday, January 13, 2010


As we all know, salt or sodium chloride is an important mineral. However most us take in much more than the 500 mg. of sodium we actually need in a day. Excess consumption of sodium can lead to or increase the effects of many health problems, the most common of which is hypertension or high blood pressure.

There are many ways in which we can cut our sodium intake. One of the easiest is by eating more fresh foods. Prepackaged foods are often quite high in sodium, even ones labeled as "lower sodium". For example, a can of chicken broth that is labeled as containing 2/3 less sodium than the regular version, still contains 420 mg of sodium, almost the total amount your body actually requires in a day. And canned tomatoes, regular contain 120 mg of sodium as opposed to salt free which contain 20 mg of sodium. And you also need to notice that this amount of sodium is per serving, not to the total amount in the can. A 14 oz. can of chicken broth is considered two servings, so if you consume the whole can, you are getting almost twice the amount of sodium you need in a day. So it is best to consume fresh meats and fresh or frozen vegetables (sauce free frozen vegetables).

Canned vegetables you can decrease the amount of sodium by buying no salt or lower sodium versions and in some cases by draining and rinsing (corn, peas, green beans, things like that). And of course, you should also not add extra salt when cooking or at the table. I will admit some things just cry out for salt and if you are careful about cutting it in other places, you should have no reason to fear sprinkling a bit over your eggs or fried potatoes. And too, you will find as you continue cutting back on your sodium intake, not only do you get used to eating less, you get to the point where you are very sensitive to how much is too much. After cutting back on my sodium intake over the past few years, I find that movie theater popcorn is completely inedible, just way too salty (not to mention too greasy, but that is for another day).

If you find lower sodium foods to be less savory, try adding other things to spark up the flavors. Herbs are a good way to do this and I am especially fond of Mrs. Dash mixes or spice mixes that I make up myself. Garlic adds a large amount of flavor, as does lemon juice. For other good ideas about cutting sodium intake check out the Mrs. Dash website.