Steps to help cut sodium intake

I have heard that there are new recommendations for sodium. Is that true?

In February, a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board released its report on the need for water, salt and potassium. The new guidelines make it clear that the average American is consuming too much salt. This report sets a toxic upper limit for sodium as 2,300 milligrams. For young adults, new guidelines state that 1,500 milligrams of sodium is an adequate intake and discourages even young, healthy Americans from consuming more than this amount.

Unfortunately, the average young American is consuming twice this amount even if he or she never touches a salt shaker. This is because at least three-fourths of the salt in the typical American diet comes from restaurant meals and convenience foods.

The report lists hypertension and cardiovascular and kidney diseases as the major adverse effects of excessive salt (sodium) intake. However, the report also notes evidence linking the toxic amount of salt in the American diet to atrophic gastritis and stomach cancer and increased calcium loss in urine, which contributes to kidney stone formation and osteoporosis. The report also sets a lower adequate intake for older adults Americans because the toxicity of salt increases in older people. For those older than 50, the new adequate limit is 1,300 milligrams a day; and for those older than 70, the new adequate limit is 1,200 milligrams a day.

The more salt a person eats, the higher blood pressure will go over time. About 90 percent of Americans can expect to develop hypertension in their lifetime. The report also recommends Americans double their current potassium intake to 4,700 milligrams per day by eating a lot more fruits and vegetables.

Do you have any ideas on how to cut down on sodium intake?

Most Americans consume an average of 3,000-5,000 milligrams of sodium per day so it is important to think through how to cut it down. Here’s some ideas to consider:

1. Switch from using deli meats to low-sodium tuna and roasted chicken.

2. Use low-sodium bread or use less bread. Cooked rice and pasta (without added salt) make good alternatives.

3. Switch to pasta sauce without added salt or add no-salt-added tomato sauce in equal parts to bottled pasta sauce.

4. Eat cereal without added salt, such as oatmeal, cream of wheat (whole is best), shredded wheat and puffed whole-grain cereal.

5. Use no-salt-added condiments like salt-free ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and low-sodium mayonnaise. Beware of mustard and soy sauce, both of which are high in sodium.

6. Use vinegar and oil (sparingly) on your salads instead of bottled dressings.

7. Make your own soup instead of using canned soup; use low-sodium broth.

8. Avoid or limit convenience meals. These include boxed mixes, frozen dinners, and canned foods.

9. Eat more meals at home. Cook your own food in batches and freeze for use on hectic days.

10. Eat more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

11. Read labels to find foods that have a lower amount of sodium than calories.

12. Substitute fresh vegetables for pickles and other pickled foods.

13. Use cheese very sparingly.

14. Watch out for salty snacks.

15. Limit the amount of cured meats such as sausages and hot dogs that you eat.

16. Limit the amount of imitation crab and fish eggs that you eat. These are often found in sushi.

17. Beware of soy substitutes; these are often high in sodium.

18. Bake you own cookies, muffins, and breads; decrease or omit the salt when possible.

19. Use nut butter without added salt instead of margarine.

20. If you are going to use canned foods, rinse them first to remove some of the sodium.

Here is a list of some of the best low-sodium food choices: Brown rice, colored and whole-grain pastas, flavored vinegars, fresh fish, frozen artichokes, frozen black-eyed peas and lima beans, frozen vegetable mixes, fresh fruits and vegetables, nut butters (without salt), oatmeal and rotisserie chicken.