Today is the start of World Salt Awareness Week. This week was started by the World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) in 2008. Their mission is to improve the health of populations throughout the world by achieving a gradual reduction in salt intake. WASH encourages multi-national food companies to reduce salt in their products.
The theme for this year’s World Salt Awareness Week is “Salt: The Forgotten Killer”. According to WASH, 75% of the salt you eat is hidden in the food you buy. The goal of this week is to remind you that salt raises blood pressure, which leads to strokes and heart attacks, and that it is hidden in most foods you buy.
When I talk about salt, I’m referring to table salt. Sodium is also another name for salt, which is how it appears on food labels. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium and this is the largest source of sodium in your diet. This is the sodium that’s the culprit in regards to raising your blood pressure.
Sodium is an essential nutrient, but most Americans eat more than they need. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2,300 mg of sodium a day and if you have any risk factors for cardiovascular disease it is recommended you eat no more than 1,500 mg per day. Most Americans are consuming 3,400 mg per day, nearly twice the recommended amount!
“Salt: The Forgotten Killer”
I have had many clients that consume a high sodium diet tell me they’ll just stop using the salt shaker and that will cut down on their sodium intake. While it will reduce your intake somewhat, unfortunately, it is not that easy (although I wish it was). About 75% of the sodium you eat is hidden in processed foods and meals from restaurants or frozen meals. This makes it more difficult for you to keep track of how much you are eating.
That’s why this year, Salt Awareness Week is focusing on the hidden salt. They want to bring awareness to the salt in foods you may eat outside of your home. New York City passed a law requiring all chain restaurants to put the amount of salt in dishes on the menu so you can be aware. Although restaurants are still fighting this law, it’s a good start to bring awareness to you and the rest of the public.
The following are 6 commonly eaten foods that are particularly high in sodium. Consider limiting these foods in your everyday diet to reduce the amount of sodium you consume.
- Canned soups
- Pre-made frozen meals
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Instant mashed potatoes
Just because these foods are high in sodium does not mean you cannot have them. You can make these foods at home with less salt or buy no salt added or lower in sodium versions!
- Replace salt with herbs and spices. When you are cooking at home, swap out salt in recipes for herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, cumin, rosemary, and basil. These will add more flavor while keeping sodium low.
- Read the nutrition label. Before you buy food at the grocery store, take a peek at the nutrition facts panel. Go to where it says sodium and see how much is in one serving. If there is more than 350 mg of sodium in one serving, it is considered high in sodium.
- Eat more meals at home. When you cook a meal, you have control over the ingredients. If you go out to eat often, swap out one day for a home cooked meal. You can recreate your favorite dish at home, with less salt!
- Buy fresh food. Processed foods have a lot of salt added to them for preservation. Opt for more fresh foods, like fruits and vegetables, or make your own snacks such as trail mixes, popcorn, and baked sweet potato chips.
Sodium can add up quickly, so it is important to pay attention to how much you are eating. If you keep your sodium intake down, you will be at a lesser risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke.
Your Turn to Take Action: What foods do you eat that have hidden sodium? How will you cut the salt this week? Let me know in the comments below!