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by DietWrite,'s Diet and Fitness News Reporter

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by Shauna Schultz, Contributor and Registered Dietitian

Sodium occurs naturally in foods and is essential for health. Sodium's role in the body is to help maintain fluid balance, transmit nerve impulses, regulate blood pressure and maintain muscle activity.

Eat Less Salt, Sneaky High-Sodium FoodsWhile sodium occurs naturally in foods, most of the sodium in our diet comes from salt or sodium chloride that is added to foods.

Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. A high sodium diet alone does not cause high blood pressure but can contribute to it in those with risk factors.

The bottom line is, most people get too much sodium in their diet. This blog will focus on identifying and limiting sodium in your diet.

The Scoop on Sodium

  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This is equal to 1 teaspoon. Other recommendations call for 1,500 mg or less per day for certain high risk groups.

  • Most Americans consume over 4,000mg per day!

  • Most of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods " be wise and read food labels.

  • The taste for salt is acquired, that is, you can desensitize your taste buds!

  • Sea salt has comparable amounts of sodium per teaspoon and is not any healthier than table salt.

    10 Ways to Kick the Salt Habit

  • Read labels! Choose foods with less sodium than calories (per serving).

  • Fresh is best " opt for fresh fruits, vegetable, meats, poultry and fish.

  • Look for no salt added, low-sodium or less-sodium canned vegetables, beans, broth, soups, tuna, crackers and tomato sauce.

  • Do not add salt when cooking or after cooking - season with herbs and spices instead.

  • Look for cue words that signal high salt: sodium, salt, pickled, smoked, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, cured, corned, brine, broth and marinated.

  • Use half or less of the seasoning packet provided with packaged rice and pasta dishes.

  • Make your own soup using low-sodium broth and tons of fresh or dried herbs, garlic and onion.

  • Look for frozen entrees with less than 600mg of sodium.

  • Look up nutrition information before eating out by checking the company's website. Some meals contain your entire day's worth or more of sodium!

  • Buy a heart healthy cookbook and limit eating out to once or twice a week.

    10 Sneaky High Sodium Foods

  • Condiments " marinades, barbeque sauce, ketchup, etc. are typically high in sodium. Limit the amount you use or look for low-sodium versions. Mrs. Dash makes a great marinade that can even double as a salad dressing.

  • Salad dressing " read labels and choose dressings with the lowest amount of sodium. Better yet, make your own by combining a little bit of olive oil with Balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.

  • Nuts " simple, buy unsalted!

  • Cereals " certain cereals can have 400 mg or more of sodium per serving! Choose lower-sodium cereals by reading labels and comparing brands.

  • Deli meats " ask for low-sodium ham, turkey or chicken. Or, slice your own lunch meat from whole roasted chicken, fresh ham or turkey.

  • Microwave popcorn " buy an air popper for your microwave (still convenient!) and season with Mrs. Dash, garlic or onion powder.

  • Salsa " make your own salsa with fresh tomatoes, lime juice, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper and cilantro.

  • Flour tortillas " look for lower sodium varieties or try corn.

  • Antacids " talk to your doctor about other ways to manage indigestion.

  • Cheese " avoid processed cheeses and limit portion size.

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