Sneaky Salt Intake

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!

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4 responses to “Sneaky Salt Intake

  1. What are your thoughts on rinsing? I use canned beans and I try to find the lowest sodium, but even that is way too much.

    I usually toss them in a colander and rinse them off really well with cold water (the recipe I was using said it would help remove some of the sodium).

    Is that enough?

    (by the way, if it’s not – it’s really not that hard to soak and cook legumes, it just takes more planning – especially if you let them soak over night)

    • kimthedietitian

      Rinsing the beans certainly helps to reduce the salt. Just how much? I’m not sure, but it will take some of it out. I use canned beans, because they are so convenient and the reduced sodium ones are easy to find. I agree with you about cooking your own – it really isn’t that hard. I just did that a couple of weeks ago. Did you know you can boil them for a minute and then cover and soak for an hour before cooking them? Then you don’t have to soak them overnight.

      • I knew there was a quicker way to do it but I thought some of the beans had to have the foam skimmed off or it may leave a bitter/funny taste – or that could be something else.

        It’s probably some other grains…who knows. That’s what I get for surfing the web for recipes and how-to-cook-whatever so much!

  2. kimthedietitian

    I hear you about the foam. After I bring the dry beans to a boil and let them sit for an hour, I drain the water and fill the pot with fresh water. Then I cook them until tender. Not only does it diminish the foam problem, but it is supposed to also reduce the “gassy” problem!

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