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Feeling Salty?

September 24th, 2009 No Comments

Feeling Salty? — By Nutritionista

This week, I’m discussing sodium. Salt is a cook’s best friend. When used correctly, it seems to make everything taste just a little bit better. But it can also cause fluid retention (bloating) and increased blood pressure, especially in people who are sensitive to it.

So how much do we really need? Most adults should aim for no more than 2,400 milligrams/day. That’s really not very much considering that a large dill pickle can have around 1,700 mg. If you’re a candidate for high blood pressure, you should keep your intake to about 1,500 mg or less (talk to your doctor).

Where is it hiding? In processed food! Whenever you buy a processed/packaged food, read the label carefully for both sodium content and ingredients. Sodium-containing compounds to watch out for:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Sodium alginate
  • Sodium nitrate or nitrite

Sodium also naturally occurs in some meat, poultry, dairy products, and veggies. Obviously, you can also find a hefty amount in table salt and other condiments (like soy sauce).

How can I limit my intake?

  • First of all, eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods! You can always control how much salt goes into home-cooked meals.
  • If you must buy processed foods, buy the low-sodium versions. If you have to add a little extra salt, it’s probably still going to contain less than the full-sodium version.
  • Don’t follow the recipe. When it comes to cooking, salt to taste, not based on what the recipe says. It might have you add more than you really need.
  • Gradually cut back. Your taste buds can adapt to a less salty taste if you cut back gradually. The more you add to meals regularly, the more you’ll need in the future to perceive the same saltiness.
  • Experiment with other herbs and spices! I love pepper and usually go wild with it when cooking. Other spicy spices and flavorings: crushed red pepper, paprika, citrus zest, fresh basil or parsley, etc. (See this post for more on spice uses and benefits).