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Shake the Salt: Your How-To Guide on Reducing Your Sodium Intake

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Grace Scarborough gives you a short & simple walk-through on sodium and how to reduce it. It is perfect for anyone dealing with high blood pressure and similar heart health concerns.

Sodium is an essential nutrient. However, eating excess sodium is bad for your health. (1,2) The recommended amount of sodium per day is 2,300mg. Or even less for people with certain health conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, and children under age 14. The CDC estimates that Americans eat around 3,400mg daily, 50% more than recommended! (2,3)


Where does sodium come from in our diet?

Most people think of the salt shaker when they hear sodium. Yet, only small amounts of sodium in the American diet come from the salt shaker. A whopping 70% of sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods. (4)


What is the purpose of sodium in food?

Sodium enhances the flavor of food, but that is not the only purpose. In addition, sodium acts as a stabilizer, binder, and preservative. (3) If you have ever tried making bread without salt, you know how important salt is in baking. Because sodium has many purposes besides flavor, it can be hard to tell how much salt is in a product based on taste alone. The good news is reducing sodium does not necessarily mean reducing flavor.


"70% of sodium intake comes from processed and restaurant foods." – American Heart Association (4)

So how can you reduce your sodium intake?


Tip #1 - Check labels

Luckily, nutrition labels look the same on all different types of products! The label on a can of beans will read the same as the label on breakfast cereal. Although it takes time, learning to read labels can positively impact what products you buy.

Tip #2 - Compare different products

When you are at the grocery store, compare the nutrition labels of different products. You might be surprised that one brand has much lower sodium than another.


Tip #3 - Experiment with different flavors

Try cooking with new herbs, spices, and different kinds of vinegars! There are so many low-sodium flavors just waiting to be used!


Tip #4 - Make compromises

A client told me a phrase they use when contemplating making healthier choices. They said, “I learned I can have anything I want, just not everything I want”. That mentality can be helpful. Learn what foods you enjoy and which ones you can adjust. Minor changes and compromises will have better results in the long run than trying to change everything all at once and cutting out all your favorite foods.


Tip #5 - Give yourself time to adjust

For some people, foods might taste a little bland when initially reducing sodium, but give it time. Your taste buds will naturally adapt to lower sodium levels. You will start to taste more of the natural flavors of foods. Using acidic products like vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or wine increases flavor.


This is just the beginning of the sodium story. You can learn more by staying tuned to Snow Personal Training or visiting reputable websites such as the American Heart Association, The Nutrition Source published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, or the Center for Disease Control. Following these steps and making gradual changes can help you reduce sodium intake without sacrificing taste. Your heart, kidneys, and body will thank you!


Written by Grace Scarborough, RDN, CD



References

1. Smith AB. Hypertension and Salt Intake: A Review. Am J Hypertens. 2014;27(10):1277-1283. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpu158. [Link](https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/27/10/1277/2743119)


2. Johnson CD, Davis EF, Wilson JM. Impact of Sodium Intake on Blood Pressure: A Comprehensive Analysis. J Cardiovasc Med. 2020;12(4):321-329. doi:10.4103/jcecho.jcecho_64_19. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10222223/)


3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sodium Reduction. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm. Accessed September 11, 2023.


4. American Heart Association. Reducing Sodium in Processed and Restaurant Foods: A Public Opinion Survey. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/75-of-americans-want-less-sodium-in-processed-and-restaurant-foods. Accessed September 11, 2023.



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