Simple and effective strategies for limiting the amount of sodium that we consume.
Sodium is an important mineral when it comes to balancing fluid levels, muscle function, and nerve impulses in the body. But getting too much can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure.
The following 6 strategies are effective and sustainable ways to reduce sodium intake in your diet.
1. Purchase whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Whole foods will always provide the lowest amount of sodium per serving. Consider that celery is one of those foods with the highest natural amount of sodium – containing 80 mg per cup. This is a very small amount in comparison to most packaged foods.
When grocery shopping, choose bulk items or those packaged with no additional ingredients. For example, a cup of black beans cooked from dry contains 1.2 mg of sodium. In comparison, a cup of regular canned black beans can have over 600 mg of sodium – that’s 500 times more!
2. Cook meals at home.
Typically the amount of salt added during cooking isn’t that large. Even if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt, it’s generally divided over 4 or so servings.
You can also choose to save the salt for the very end. Taste the food and add some only if needed. This isn’t your typical culinary advice, but for day to day cooking, it’s best to keep meals healthier, meaning lower in salt, oils, and other additives.
3. Use herbs and spices or other foods for flavoring dishes.
Broths and other prepared sauces tend to be very high in sodium. Skip those and instead bring out the flavor with a variety of herbs, spices or other foods such as nutritional yeast. You can also try lemon or lime juice for added acidity.
One of my favorite salt substitutes is Benson’s Table Tasty seasoning. I like it on just about any dish and have even given it as a gift because it’s such a unique find.
4. Read and compare Nutrition Facts labels of packaged foods.
Anything listed with 20% (460 mg) or more of sodium is very high. Instead, choose “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” options when possible.
5. Limit portion sizes of foods with high amounts of sodium.
Foods high in sodium are everywhere and they are fine to enjoy occasionally, but be aware of portion sizes. Some foods, such as chips, crackers, pasta sauces, and dips are easy to go overboard with.
Eat mindfully and enjoy your meals without distractions. One easy method is to measure out the amount you want to eat and put away the rest. For me, that means not leaving chips and salsa on the table but serving myself an appropriate portion before sitting down to eat.
6. Reduce the frequency of eating out.
Restaurants can be a challenge since ingredients and nutritional facts aren’t readily available. You can certainly ask about low sodium options to help inform your decision.
I typically go out to eat for social reasons and rarely get take-out for eating at home. Because I follow the strategies listed above, I order whatever vegan meal looks good and don’t stress about the sodium content (or any other nutrients).
In general, reducing sodium intake is a good idea for most of us with modern on-the-go lifestyles. Follow the strategies above to help shape your behavior around more healthful food choices.