If you have too much salt in your diet, you’re not alone. It’s not so much a weight topic (although salt is found in many high calorie foods), but it is an important health topic. Research shows that nearly all Americans consume more salt than they need. If you keep up on the latest health news, you’ll find that there is a lot of back and forth about how much is too much. Federal dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300 milligrams a day. That’s a good number to aim for.
Salt adds up so quickly in our diet because it hides where we least expect it. Let’s dispel some myths:
I’m not eating too much salt since I don’t add it to my food.
Although paying attention to how much you salt your food is important, research has shown that 77% of the salt Americans consume is from processed and restaurant food. Reading food labels and paying attention to the foods you eat at restaurants may have a greater effect on your daily intake of salt.
I don’t need to pay attention to salt with vegetables. Vegetables are good for me.
Vegetables are recognized as being a healthy part of a balanced meal plan. They are nutrient dense and generally low in calories. However, canned vegetables are often high in sodium. Be sure to rinse canned vegetables with water. This will reduce the salt you consume. You can also select the ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’ canned varieties. Alternatively, choose fresh or frozen vegetables as they offer more vitamins and minimal amounts of salt.
I can’t eat at a restaurant because restaurant foods are high in salt.
It is true that many restaurant foods can be high in sodium (see Myth #1). However, you can ask the server for their low salt or no salt options. They may either have a specific menu or be willing to make an adjustment to prepare your meal with less salt.
Food will lose its flavor without the salt.
Salt is a strong flavor and can enhance the taste of foods. However, as a result, it can mask other flavors in food that go unnoticed. As you reduce your salt intake, your taste buds adjust, and before long, you may start picking up on other enjoyable flavors that were hiding behind the salt. Additionally, grocery stores sell seasonings that can provide bold flavors without using salt.
If the food/beverage does not taste salty, it is okay to eat/drink.
Believe it or not, other strong flavors can mask the flavor of salt. In addition to sweets, some combination of flavors or forms of salt can make it hard to detect the salt that is in the food. Reading labels will help to confirm how much salt is in the food you are eating.
There are obvious foods that pack in the salt, like French fries and salted nuts. Those should always be eaten in moderation or not at all. Know what you’re eating, though. It’s not just those salty tasting snacks that can push you over the limit.