Some would argue that salt is the favorite ingredient of Americans, and many have acquired a taste for a high salt diet. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day – more than twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended! Shaking the salt habit can help lower your blood pressure or prevent HBP from developing in the first place.
This month, the American Heart Association is challenging Americans to take the Sodium Swap Challenge. Re-charge your taste buds and give your heart-health a boost. First, you need to get familiar with the Salty Six – common foods that may be loaded with excess sodium that can increase your risk of heart disease.
The top food culprits are:
1. Breads & Rolls – Eating bread several times a day can add up to a lot of sodium. Read labels.
2. Cold Cuts &Cured Meats - One 2 oz. serving, or 6 thin slices, of deli meat can contain as much as half of your daily recommendeddietary sodium. Look for lowersodium varieties.
3. Pizza - A slice of pizza with several toppings can contain more than half of your daily recommended dietarysodium. Limit the cheese and add more veggies to your next slice.
4. Poultry – Sodium levels in poultry can vary based on preparation methods. You will find a wide range ofsodium in poultry products, so it is important to choose wisely.
5. Soup - Sodium in one cup of canned soup can range from 100 to as much as 940 milligrams—more thanhalf of your daily recommended intake. Look for lower sodium varieties.
6. Sandwiches -- A sandwich or burger from a fast food restaurant can contain more than 100 percent of your daily suggested dietarysodium. Try half a sandwich with a side salad instead.
To get started with the Sodium Swap Challenge, track your sodium consumption over the first two days by checking labelsfor the foods you normally eat. This will establish how much you are consuming. Gradually lower sodium intake over the next three weeks using the Salty Six as a guide:
Week 1 – Tackle consumption of breads and rolls as well as cold cuts and cured meats. Check food labels and look for lower sodium items. Keep your eyes on the 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
Week 2 – Keep the momentum going! This week focus on pizza and poultry. If you’re going to eat pizza, aim for one with less cheese and meats. Opt for veggies as toppings. When cooking, use fresh, skinless chicken that is not enhanced with sodium solution.
Week 3 – Focus on soups and sandwiches. A cup of chicken noodle soup may have up to 940 milligrams and if you eat with a sandwich, you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams. Choose lower sodium soup and make your sandwiches with lower sodium meats and cheeses.
By the end of the challenge you should start to notice a change in the wayyour food tastes and how you feel after you eat. You might even start to lean towards lower sodium options. As you plan your next meal or shop for groceries, keep the Salty Six in mind and look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark on foods at the grocery store and and menu items in restaurants. To learn more, visit heart.org/sodium.
Amy Reuter is president of Seattle FoodNut, a food and nutrition consulting company focused on helping athletes and business professionals eat well for health and peak performance. Amy also serves as a volunteer for the American Heart Association and as a nutrition instructor at City University in Seattle. When not teaching, helping clients or supporting her children’s activities, Amy can be found in the kitchen, garden, or local farmer’s market.