The Prudent Pantry: Ways to Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Image by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr
Last year I attended an American Heart Association event to learn about heart health. Ever since then, I've been thinking about one aspect in particular: sodium. We eat too much. The daily recommended amount
it about 1,500 milligrams, and the average American consumes over 3,000 milligrams a day.
Sodium is in almost everything. It seems to me that rather than panicking, the first step to avoiding it is cutting processed foods out of our diets; naturally occurring sodium has the same negative effects on our hearts, but the overall good in whole foods balances out with the sodium content, whereas there is almost nothing good about processed, packaged foods.
Avoiding sodium can be tricky. Sometimes it's the obvious things that escape our notice--for instance, it never occurred to me that baking soda (and by extension, baking powder
) would be high sodium but of course "baking soda" is also known as "sodium bicarbonate" and it's very high indeed. You'd have to eliminate most baked goods and who knows what else to eliminate baking soda--instead, try avoiding anything containing sodium benzoate, a preservative.
I've believed for quite a while that sea salt is lower sodium than the more highly processed table salt (aka iodized salt
), but it turns out I was mistaken. According to the Mayo Clinic
, they are nutritionally identical. That said, it's my experience that I need more table salt to get the flavor I get with just a small amount of sea salt, so it may be worth experimenting a bit with which one you use.
Another place salt hides: frozen vegetables! I was so mad when I discovered this one. Frozen veggies
are a cost-effective, healthy way to get your veggies--they're usually frozen right after they're picked, which means they can be better for you than so-called fresh veggies! But you have to check the package to make sure there's no added salt.
Here are a few more tips. Please add your own!
- Read the label before you buy any packaged food.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Don't salt food while you're cooking.
- Taste your food before adding salt.
- Try substituting dried herbs and spices for salt.
How do you keep your diet low sodium?
Annika Barranti is a writer living in Los Angeles and blogging for the Savings.com personal finance blog as well as her personal blog, Through the Looking Glass. She and her husband are raising two children and trying to eat well on a tiny budget.