A new study from Harvard researchers has found that a diet high in sodium contributed to 2.3 million cardiovascular deaths worldwide in 2010 or one in 10 U.S. deaths. The research was presented at the annual American Heart Association meeting last week.
Dr. Darius Mozaffarin, one of the study’s lead researchers and a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School, emphasized that although sugar is a major culprit in preventable deaths, salt is more dangerous because of its pervasiveness in the American diet. For the average person, Mozaffarin noted, “it’s very hard to avoid salt – you have to be incredibly motivated, incredibly educated, and have access to a range of food and do all the cooking yourself.” Salt is especially prominent in processed and packaged foods – including sauces and toppings.
The human body needs only 180-500 milligrams of sodium daily to function, and no more than 1,500 milligrams as the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Americans on average consume 3,600 milligrams per day – more than twice the RDA. Salt is a leading contributor to high blood pressure or hypertension – which is the leading cause of death in North America and most parts of the world. Hypertension is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke.
Here are some tips to reduce your salt intake:
- Read nutrition labels at the grocery store and choose low- sodium options, whenever possible.
- Avoid prepared and restaurant foods as much as possible, they are almost always high in sodium.
- Take the salt shaker off the table.
- Choose fresh poultry and meats instead of the packaged or processed kinds such as luncheon meats.
- Use unsalted butter instead of regular butter.
- Rinse canned foods to reduce some of the sodium.
- Choose fruits and vegetables as snacks rather than the canned.
- Nuts are healthy but choose the unsalted variety.
- Choose healthier seasonings for food instead of salt such as herbs and lemon juice.
- Purchase fresh foods instead of packaged or canned.
- Avoid or limit foods that are known to be high in sodium.
- Choose low-sodium cheese and yogurt.
- Remember, sea salt is not healthier than regular table salt.
- Eat foods high in potassium – white beans, spinach, baked potatoes with skin, salmon, avocados, bananas, etc. – help balance your body’s sodium levels.