Reduce Dietary Sodium Intake

Posted: September 19, 2011

The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the dietary guidelines. Many Americans are still consuming more sodium than the recommended 2300 mg per day so the guidelines suggest reducing intake to the recommended amount.

      In addition, people 51 and older as well as African Americans and those who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, are encouraged to reduce their daily sodium intake even below that - to no more than 1500 mg. These recommendations are important because a high sodium intake has been linked to an increased risk for hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

     One simple way to reduce our intake is to put away the salt shaker but we must also read nutrition labels. More than three-fourths of the salt we consume is from processed foods so being an avid label reader is a must. Mary Meck Higgins, Kansas State University Research and Extension nutrition specialist, provides these additional tips to reduce the sodium in your diet:

     * If purchasing a processed food, look for packages that say “unsalted,” “sodium-free,” or “very low” or “low” in sodium. Compare labels of similar products for sodium content, and choose products that are lower in sodium. 

     * Note recommended serving sizes, and measure servings onto a plate or into a bowl, rather than eating directly from a bag or box.

     * For vegetables, keep sodium to a minimum by choosing fresh, frozen (without added gravies or sauces), or canned vegetables with “no salt added.”

     * If using canned vegetables with added salt, drain and rinse them under running water before use to reduce sodium by 25 to 45 percent.

     * Drain and rinse canned tuna under running water for three minutes to reduce sodium by 80 percent. The same procedure can reduce the sodium in cottage cheese, but also will reduce calcium in the product.

     * Look for seasonal produce and other fresh or minimally processed foods that are naturally lower in sodium than processed foods.

     * Serve fresh fruits and vegetables in place of a high-salt snack.

     * Prepare more meals and snacks made at home to reduce sodium intake, along with fat and calories -- and save on the overall food bill.

     * If dining out, ask restaurant staff to prepare your meal with no added salt.

     * Keep track of daily sodium consumption for a week or two to check progress in reducing sodium intake. Tracking for one day a week or one week a month also can be helpful.

     Try making one or two of these changes. Often making a gradual shift in our eating practices leads to successful change so try adopting one or two of these tips. Once you’ve mastered them, then add another one or two.

  Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.