Sodium in salt may contribute to high blood pressures in some people. By limiting the amount of sodium used, these people can reduce the amount of medication required, and in some cases, lower blood pressure to a stage where medication may not be needed at all.
Hypertension is even more important than high blood cholesterol in calculating the risk of stroke. Every rise on the blood pressure scale increases the danger. Conversely, as pressure decreases, the risk diminishes. You probably know that the first order a physician will give a patient with hypertension is “Reduce your sodium intake.”
Incidentally, don’t be discouraged if food seems bland and tasteless at first. You may find that most people who lower their salt intake become accustomed to the new level in two to four weeks and soon discover that foods that tasted just right before, now seem unpleasantly salty.
Salt substitutes usually contain potassium or ammonium or both. If under treatment or observation for any illness you should check with your doctor before using them. Vegetable salt, rock salt, sea salt, garlic salt, celery salt all contain sodium.
Low-Salt Diet Guidelines
You’ll realize how pleasurable eating can be when your taste buds are free to enjoy the natural flavor of foods, as well as the many subtle combinations of herbs, spices, fruit juices, wines and vinegar that you can use to enhance them.
Follow these tips to lower the salt intake:
- Don’t put salt on the table.
- Reduce or omit salt in cooking.
- Read food labels: choose low-salt products or products labelled as low salt or no added sodium.
- Use unprocessed (fresh) foods: processing usually increases sodium content.
- Choose low-salt cereals, including bread, unsalted oats and biscuits.
Use foods from each of the following groups:
- Cereals: wheat, rye, oats, barley.
- Fruit and vegetables: raw or lightly cooked.
- Lean meat, fish, lean poultry, dried beans, lentils.
- Milk products: skim or low-fat (cheese has added salt).
- Oils and fats in small amounts.
Discover heart-healthy, low salt cooking:
- Eliminate monosodium glutamate, large amounts of soy sauce and baking soda whenever you boil vegetables.
- Carefully read the labels on processed foods. Soups, canned stews, frozen dinners and soft drinks may be high in salt. If a food begins to taste too salty to you after you have cut down for a while, find lower-salt brand.
- Avoid adding salt to frozen or canned vegetables that are already salted.
- Eliminate highly salted snack foods such as potato chips, pretzels, salted nuts, olives, brine-packed pickles.
- Steam vegetables instead of boiling, to retain natural flavors.
- Use garlic, dry mustard, pepper, onions, shallots, mushrooms and tomatoes to add flavor to meat and vegetables.
- Add a little wine to casseroles and stews. The alcohol will evaporate during cooking, but the flavor remains.
- Add sliced lemon or lemon juice to white meats and fish.
- Use herbs such as basil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme.
- Use spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg.
Sodium Content of Foods
Most fresh foods contain some sodium but in low concentrations. Your daily requirement of sodium is small and an eating plan which includes a variety of foods will satisfy the body’s needs.
The use of salt in food is an acquired taste and sometimes just a habit. Salt is a chemical made up of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. Although the body must have sodium, most people eat far more than they need.
Foods low in salt:
- Fruit (fresh, canned, juices)
- Vegetables (fresh and frozen, except silver beet)
- Unsalted bread
- Unsalted nuts
- Unsalted seeds
- Unsalted butter
- Unsalted margarine
- Cooking oils
- Legumes (not canned)
- Soybean milk
- Breast milk
Foods moderate in salt:
- Unsalted meat
- Cottage/ricotta cheese
- Biscuits (plain)
- Peanut butter
- Canned baby food (main-meal type)
- Soft drinks
Foods high in salt:
- Cured, corned, luncheon meats and meat pastes
- Smoked and canned fish, fish pastes
- Vegetable yeast extracts (Marmite, Vegemite, and Promite)
- Cheese: especially processed and spreads
- Commercial sauces
- Take-away packaged foods (unless marked as low salt)
- Take-away foods: meat pie, hot-dog, fish and chips, pizzas
- Potato chips
- Salted nuts
- Packet and canned soups
- Canned vegetables and vegetable juices (unless marked as low sodium)
- Stock cubes
- Salted savory biscuits
- Baking powder or baking soda
- Meat tenderizer
- Some mineral waters
- Fruit saline
- Cereals such as com flakes, rice bubbles, most bran types
- Bread: more than four slices per day
- Chocolate, toffees
Start a low-salt diet today: it will be beneficial for you and your family, and you will soon wonder why you used salt at all.