January 28, 2008
Leaving Salt Behind
The Food and Drug Administration is now considering whether it should regulate the amount of sodium in processed foods. But for now you still have to be in charge of limiting your sodium intake. Here's how:
Retrain your taste buds. Scale back the amount of salt used at the table and in cooking to reduce your exposure to its taste. After three months, most people no longer miss salt, research shows.
Check nutrient claims. Products labeled "sodium free" contain 5 mg of sodium or less per serving. A "very low sodium" product has 35 mg or less, and a "low sodium" item contains 140 mg or less. But be careful: Products labeled "reduced sodium" or "less sodium" need only have 25 percent less sodium than a standard version of the food. So a cup of reduced-sodium chicken-noodle soup may still serve up a hefty 660 mg, about 28 percent of your daily allotment.
Read nutrition information. Look for foods that provide 5 percent or less of the "daily value," or the government recommended maximum. Then check the serving size to tally your actual intake.
Compare brands. A serving of Newman's Own Lighten Up Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, for example, has 470 mg of sodium, compared with just 75 mg in Annie's Naturals Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette. And a serving of Celeste Pizza For One packs 1,080 mg of sodium, twice as much as a comparable serving of Mystic Cheese frozen pizza.
Sidestep sodium heavyweights. Avoid cured meats, such as bacon, ham, and hot dogs; sardines and smoked salmon; and brined foods, like pickles, sauerkraut, and olives. Go easy on ketchup, salt-based seasonings, and barbecue and steak sauces. And use even the reduced-sodium versions of soy and teriyaki sauce sparingly, if at all.
Rinse your food. Running water over canned tuna and salmon, canned vegetables, feta cheese, and capers can reduce the sodium load by up to 30 percent.
Swap salt for spices. Cook with fresh or dried herbs, salt-free seasoning blends, and acidic flavorings like lemon juice, citrus zest, and flavored vinegars to bring out a food's natural taste. Explore the seasonings used in ethnic recipes, such as cumin and chili powder in Mexican food, and coriander and turmeric in Indian.
Be choosy at restaurants. It's easy to consume a day's worth of sodium in a single restaurant dish. Some chains post nutrition information for each menu item, so check sodium content before ordering. At other restaurants, ask for low-salt dishes, and for sauce or dressing on the side. If you plan to eat out, reduce sodium intake at other meals.
Posted by Lisa at January 28, 2008 7:11 AM
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