Simple, yet effective ways to lower salt consumption

Learn the most common sources of sodium in your diet and some easy substitutions you can make

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

If you think steering clear of potato chips, French fries, and other savoury snacks is the best way to trim salt from your diet, think again. Yes, those foods are salty, but they only rank no. 7 on the top 10 sources of sodium (a major component of salt).

The category of bread and rolls tops the list, which is based both on sodium content and how often people eat the foods. Bread is not especially salty, but we eat a lot of it, as well as similar foods such as hamburger, hot dog, samosas, etc.

But you don’t need to cut these foods out of your diet, breads require salt for both taste and texture, so low-sodium breads are not very popular. A better strategy is being aware of what you put between or on the bread and to choose whole-grain versions whenever possible.

Reading food labels: Checking for sodium

To assess a food’s sodium level, check the back and sides as well as the front of the package or container. The label may offer a clue. But the actual amount is listed in the Nutrition Facts panel found on the product’s back or side:

If the label says: Sodium-free or salt-free

It means: Less than 5 mg sodium per serving

If the label says: Very low sodium

It means: Less than 35 mg sodium per serving

If the label says: Low sodium

It means: Less than 140 mg sodium per serving

If the label says: Light in sodium

It means: At least 50% less sodium than original product

If the label says: Reduced sodium

It means: At least 25% less sodium than original product

Source: Havard Medical School

Too much salt

The average adult eats about 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, which is far more than the recommended daily goal of 2,300 mg.

Here are the top 8 types of food that account for more than 40% of the sodium we eat each day, along with some ideas for simple swaps to trim your salt intake.

Breads and rolls: As noted above, this category tops the list not because bread is especially salty (a slice contains about 100 to 200 mg of sodium) but because we eat so much of it.

Smart swaps: Instead of toast for breakfast, have a bowl of oatmeal prepared with just a pinch of salt.

Pizza: All the essential pizza ingredients, the crust, sauce, and cheese, contain a lot of salt. Adding cured meats such as pepperoni or sausage adds even more sodium.

Smart swap: Make a homemade pizza using a whole-wheat, prebaked pizza crust with low-sodium pizza sauce and light cheese. Top with sliced bell peppers, mushrooms, or any other vegetables you like. Bake at 232 degrees Celsius until the cheese melts.

Sandwiches: Like pizza, most sandwiches contain salty ingredients

Smart swaps: Load up your sandwich with veggies such as tomato, avocado, and lettuce. Or try peanut butter with sliced apple or banana.

Cold cuts and cured meats: These processed meats include bacon, ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs, etc.  Not only are they high in sodium chloride (salt), they may also contain sodium nitrate as a preservative, which boosts the sodium count.

Smart swaps: Cook your own fresh chicken to slice up for sandwiches, or buy a chicken breast.

Soups: Some varieties of canned soup have as much as 940 mg of sodium per serving.

Smart swaps: Look for low-sodium and reduced-sodium varieties. Or make a large batch of homemade soup, adding just enough salt to enhance the taste, and freeze it in individual serving containers.

Savoury snacks: This includes chips, samosas, popcorn, biscuits, namkeens, and crackers.

Smart swap: Choose low-or reduced-sodium versions of these snack foods.

Chicken: This popular protein is often prepared in commercial kitchens, which means more salt. Rotisserie or fried chicken from a grocery store or restaurant contains up to four times the sodium of plain chicken prepared at home.

Smart swap: Roasting an entire chicken takes a while, but you can bake or sauté chicken breasts seasoned with herb and spices in far less time.

Cheese: The amount of sodium in cheese varies widely, even among the same varieties, so check the labels carefully.

Smart swaps: Try low-sodium cheddar cheese, or substitute small amounts of finely grated. Avoid too much of processed cheese.

Source: Havard Medical School