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(Don't) Pass the Salt
Photo: Barbara Helgason
Salt is so common and so innocent-looking as it sits in shakers in nearly every kitchen in America. Yet the consumption of excess sodium may be causing as much health havoc as trans fat, sugar or food additives.

Table salt is made from sodium and chloride. Sodium is a mineral needed by the body to help maintain proper balance of fluids and regulate nerve and muscle control. But most nutritionists agree that a balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables provides adequate naturally-occurring sodium and that the average American is currently consuming twice as much sodium as needed.

We’ve known for a long time that excess sodium levels lead to high blood pressure, which contributes to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Stomach cancer, osteoporosis and obesity have also been linked to excessive sodium consumption, along with less serious conditions such as constipation and unusual thirst.

The good news is that the desire for salt is an acquired taste, so it’s reversible. After a month without added salt most people’s taste buds will change. Taking the salty snacks out of your diet—chips, salted nuts, etc—is a good way to start cutting back. But unfortunately much sodium still remains. Approximately 70-80 percent of the sodium we consume is added to foods before we open a package or walk into a restaurant.

Tips to Reduce Sodium Intake

Here are basic tips from www.mayoclinic.com for controlling sodium levels in your diet.

1. Eat fresh foods instead of processed ones whenever possible.

2. Choose low-sodium products when you do buy processed foods.

3. Try gradually omitting salt in recipes for stews and casseroles. Use herbs or spices for flavor instead. Reduce salt by half in baked goods.

4. Limit the use of condiments—salad dressings, dips, sauces, ketchup and mustard all have added sodium.

5. Experiment with other flavorings. Learn how to use fresh and dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus, and fruit juices to jazz up your meals.

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Sources: www.globalhealingcenter.com
Nutrition Action Health Newsletter, Jan/Feb 2010 and April 2010

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