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Pass the salt, please

Americans consume more than twice the quantity recommended

Karen Miller | 12/11/2015, 11:16 a.m.
According to the American Heart Association, consumers eat more than twice the recommended daily limit. Salt, or sodium, is available ...
Illustration by Caleb Olson

Food labeling

There’s a kind of sleight of hand in the description or labeling of foods. The focus may be more on fat content or the number of calories, thereby diverting attention away from sodium. Yet, foods labeled as “healthy” can be chock full of salt. For instance, a half cup of small curd cottage cheese can contain over 450 mg of sodium. One serving of “98 percent fat-free oven roast turkey breast” contains only 25 calories and one gram of fat, but 250 mg of sodium. Doubling the serving, which is typical for a sandwich, does little to the fat and calorie content, but approaches one-third of the daily limit of salt.

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The hidden salt

Source: American Heart Association

Source: American Heart Association

Sodium in food is hard to avoid. That makes it a challenge to limit its intake, but it is possible. Limit consumption of processed foods, such as processed turkey and bacon; eat a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Use herbs and spices to flavor foods and eat sparingly frozen meals and vegetables with sauce. Read the Nutrition Facts labels. Products that are low sodium contain 140 mg or less per serving; very low sodium, 35 mg or less. Sodium-free products contain less than 5 mg per serving.

New research is emerging that large amounts of sodium each day may not be as harmful as previously thought, and that too little consumption may actually be damaging. It will be a while before consensus in reached on this debate. However, there is strong agreement that these findings do not pertain to people with high blood pressure. Limitation of salt consumption for this group of people remains strongly advised.

The taste for salt is acquired. Slowly decrease your use of salt and your taste buds will gradually adjust.