January 17, 2012

Check labels to cut salt

When trying to pinpoint the excess sodium in your diet, don't trust your taste buds. Check the food label.

One teaspoon of salt may sound like a lot or a little depending on your eating habits. That is the maximum amount recommended for the average person, according to the National Institute of Health, and equals 100 percent of your daily value on a food label.

Most Americans eat almost double that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though sodium is an important mineral, most people are eating far more than recommended, and for some, it is detrimental to their health.

Sodium is an essential mineral found in nature that is important to our body's natural systems, but in excess can cause high blood pressure in some. Table salt is sodium chloride, but there are other forms of sodium in our foods, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). I will use salt to refer to sodium in a general sense, as it is a term that is more common.

Most of the salt in the American diet comes from processed foods.

It occurs naturally in many foods in small quantities, and adding salt while cooking or at the table can certainly impact your daily consumption. But if you are trying to reduce your sodium intake, check the processed foods you are eating. Some are loaded with sodium but do not taste that salty. When salt is mixed in (like in a soup or sauce) you can taste it, but not as strongly as you would when it is covering the outside of a chip or pretzel.

By comparing labels, you can see that often the soup or sauce has much more salt per serving than the salty-tasting chip or pretzel.

To accurately assess how much salt is in your food choices, use the nutrition facts label. Keep in mind that your portion may or may not reflect the serving listed and this will impact the amount of sodium you are consuming. If a serving size is 1 cup but you are having a 2-cup portion, multiply the amount of sodium by two.

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