How can I cut back on salt?

One way to eat less fat, and thus help reduce calorie intake and lose weight, is to follow the DASH diet. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, people ate a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in salt, total fat, and saturated fat. The study found that these people significantly reduced their blood pressure levels.

Another study was published in the December 18, 2001 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. This study found that you can reduce your blood pressure either by eating a low-salt diet or by following the DASH diet. The study also found that using both of the diets together decreased blood pressure even more.

Here are some easy tips for reducing the sodium in your diet:

  • Limit processed foods. Most of the salt - as much as 75% - that Americans consume comes from processed foods. Processed foods include the following:
    • prepackaged sauces and mixes
    • flavored rice dishes
    • cereal
    • soups
    • frozen pizza
    • salad dressings
    • packaged pasta dishes
    • frozen meals

    Instead of buying these products, choose foods that are fresh, frozen, or canned with no salt added. For instance, add your own nonsalty spices to white or brown rice instead of buying prepackaged rice mixes. Or buy dried pasta and make your own low-salt toppings instead of buying frozen pastas premixed with sauce.

  • Read labels. Check food labels for the amount of sodium. Buy products that are lower in sodium. Look for products with labels that say any of the following:
    • no salt
    • low sodium
    • unsalted
    • reduced salt
    • less salt
    • light in sodium
    • sodium-free
    • no added salt

    The federal government regulates the use of such terms on food packages. See what do salt claims on food labels mean? to learn more.

  • Don't add salt during cooking. Instead, season foods with herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends. For instance, try the following flavor combinations.
    • Add curry, garlic, rosemary, or mint to lamb.
    • Try onion, pepper, sage, or thyme on beef.
    • Flavor fish with lemon, paprika, or mustard.
    • Bring out the flavor of chicken with ginger, oregano, poultry seasoning, or tarragon.
    • Use herbs such as marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, dill, oregano, tarragon, and thyme on vegetables.
  • The options for healthy and tasty dishes are endless. Check cookbooks for new ways to use spices if you're not used to adding your own seasonings. Remove the saltshaker from your table or replace the salt with your own blend of spices.

  • Rinse canned foods. If you are watching your salt intake, it is always best to buy fresh foods. But if you buy canned food products, look for lower-sodium varieties or those canned without added salt. Be sure to rinse canned foods before using them to wash out any excess salt.
  • Avoid obviously salty foods. Avoid foods such as salt bagels, salted pretzels, salted chips, pickles, soy sauce, and smoked or cured foods.
  • Be aware that some medicines contain sodium. This includes some common, over-the-counter products, such as antacids.
  • Ask your doctor about salt substitutes. Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. This can be harmful for people who have kidney disease or who are on certain medicines for blood pressure or heart disease. Talk with your doctor before choosing salt substitutes.
  • Make low-salt substitutions. Substitute less-salty foods for ones high in salt. To help you discover foods that won't increase your sodium intake, see which foods are lower in salt?

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