With all the recent government warnings about salt intake in the American diet, I am reminded of a comment I often hear: “I never salt any of my food.” Well, that may be true, but most people get plenty of salt nonetheless. By eating at restaurants and using lots of processed foods, many Americans get LOTS more than they may be aware.
In fact, most Americans get more salt from prepared foods than from a salt shaker. The fact is that Americans cook from scratch much less than in the distant past. Many of us have gotten so accustomed to the salty taste of our food that we do not even have a clue how much is in there.
Recommendations tell us to limit sodium intake to 2400 mg per day, which is the amount in one teaspoon of table salt. The next time you go to the grocery store, check the labels. If you are a consumer of canned foods, you will probably be shocked by how salty these products are. Some soups can have about 1000 mg in a single serving, and that is often only HALF a can!
Why should we care? High levels of sodium are linked to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. With heart disease killing so many every year, we probably should be a lot more aware of what is in the foods we buy. Restaurant food is even trickier. In general, it is a safe bet that if you eat out frequently, you are getting more than you would guess.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to cook all of their food from scratch, but we can all do a little better job. A simple way to decrease the sodium in a prepared food is to add vegetables (fresh or frozen). Most are almost sodium free. Make your own reduced sodium soups by just throwing in some leftover vegetables. Baby steps are a good start!