When it comes to dietary sodium, less is certainly best, yet Americans today consume 50% more than the recommended daily quantities of sodium. Diets high in sodium increase blood pressure levels. High blood pressure damages the kidneys over time, and is a leading cause of kidney failure.
To help Americans reduce salt intake to the ideal one teaspoon per day, the National Kidney Foundation and Council of Renal Nutrition member Linda Ulrich offer 10 tips to reduce sodium in your diet.
1. Use fresh, rather than packaged, meats. Fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork contain natural sodium, but the content is still much less than the hidden extra sodium added during processing in products like bacon or ham. If a food item keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks, that's a tip off that the sodium content is too high.
2. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables, as well, since they are very low in sodium. Canned and frozen fruits are also low in sodium.
3. When buying frozen vegetables, choose those that are labeled "fresh frozen" and do not contain added seasoning or sauces.
4. Begin reading food labels as a matter of course. Sodium content is always listed on the label. Sometimes the high sugar content in a product like apple pie can mask the high sodium content so it's important to check every label for sodium content.
5. Compare various brands of the same food item until you find the one that has the lowest sodium content, since this will vary from brand to brand.
6. Select spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, i.e. choose garlic powder over garlic salt.
7. Before dining out, do your research. Visit the restaurant's website which should list the sodium content of various dishes served there. Alternatively, when you're at the restaurant and ready to order, you can request that the dish be served without salt.
8. Beware of products that don't taste especially salty but still have high sodium content, such as cottage cheese.
9. If you have elevated blood pressure, dietary sodium restriction can not only lower your blood pressure, but can enhance your response to blood pressure medications.
10. Salt preference is an acquired taste that can be unlearned. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt, but once it's done, it's actually difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty.