Reduce the sodium in your food

Reducing sodium intake is one of the recommendations for National High Blood Pressure Education Month to help keep blood pressure at a normal level.  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute wants consumers to know high blood pressure is a dangerous condition.  An alarming fact is that most people don’t exhibit symptoms and may not know they have a problem.  Uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, which are ranked among the leading causes of death in the United States.

Some people are sensitive to sodium, so it is good to look at common sources of sodium in your diet and work on ways to reduce your intake.  While most people aren’t thrilled about reading the nutrition labels on food packaging, the amount of sodium is listed.  Hidden sodium is in foods you would not commonly think of as containing high amounts, and the Dietary Guidelines update ranks the most commonly eaten foods supplying sodium in our diet.

Believe it or not, the number one source of sodium in our American diet is bread.  That bread you buy doesn’t taste salty either.  It isn’t because bread is so high in sodium; it’s that we eat so much of it.   Sodium is an essential ingredient in the baking process and the amount of sodium in bread varies, so read that nutrition label!  At the top of the label, you will find if a serving size is one or two slices.  Since most loafs are labeled for one slice, you can determine if you are getting twice the amount when eating a sandwich.  This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating bread, just choose a loaf that is lower in sodium than most.

The second highest food source of sodium in our diets is lunch meat; cold cuts and cured meats.  Bacon is a common food contributing up to 200 mg of sodium per slice. Most sandwich meat doesn’t taste too salty, but sodium is used in processing.  To keep the sodium level down, you can purchase reduced-sodium versions, but they still have a fair amount.  A better idea might be to roast your own meat and slice it for sandwiches.  It may take a little more planning, but if you need to keep your sodium intake down, it may be worth the effort.

The third highest source of sodium in the American diet is pizza.  That is why you are thirsty an hour or so after eating a few slices.  It’s the sauce, cheese, pepperoni and other meats that add up.  If you are making one at home, use reduced-sodium ingredients.

Extension Nutrition Specialists suggest the following to help reduce sodium in meals:

Add less salt at the table and in cooking. Measure the amount you use and then reduce the amount.

Experiment with spices and herb to add a variety to the flavor of your food; use onion, garlic and celery powders instead of salt.

Rinse canned foods before preparation to reduce sodium.

Make your own pasta and pizza sauce using “no-salt added” canned tomatoes.  Add basil, oregano, onion and garlic for flavor.

Get back to cooking your own food instead of eating out, you’ll have control of the ingredients and can drastically reduce the sodium in you food.

For more information on reducing sodium in your diet, contact the Madison County Extension Service.

The University of Florida Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Affirmative Action Institution.

-Diann Douglas

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