We Americans love our salt. On average, men consume almost double the recommended amount of sodium each day. They eat 4,500 milligrams per day and the recommended amount is 2,300. Women consume a little over 3,000 milligrams per day — just over the 2,300 milligrams recommended.
Why is salt bad for us? Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, extra sodium might put us at risk for high blood pressure or hypertension. If you already have hypertension, your doctor may have recommended you restrict your salt to 1,500 milligrams per day.
Some of us might say we don’t add salt to our food, or I stopped adding salt to my boiling water for pasta. But where is the salt really coming from in our diets?
It’s surprising to note that 65% of the sodium we consume is from processed foods and approximately 25% from restaurant foods.
Most sodium consumed in the United States comes from salts added during commercial food processing and food preparation.
Here is the list of processed foods where we get the most sodium from in order from highest to lowest: Bread and rolls, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, pizza, pasta and pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, tortillas, tacos, sausage, franks, cheese, grain based desserts, soups, beef and beef mixed dishes, rice and rice mixed dishes, and burgers (NHANCEA 2005-2006).
The first step to reducing sodium in your diet is to read the food label. The food label tells us how much sodium is in the product we are buying. The daily value on the food label is the amount recommended to eat in one day. For sodium, the daily value is 2,300 milligrams. The food label will tell you the percent daily value. For example, if the food item is canned soup, the food label states 410 mg of sodium and the percent daily value is 17%.
Read the food label on commercially prepared foods. You will be surprised to find out how much sodium is added.
A second step to reducing sodium is to drain and then rinse any canned beans or vegetables before cooking or adding to soups. More than 30% of the sodium can be rinsed off. Purchase low sodium products if you can.
Finally, be choosey when you eat out. Ask that salt not be added to foods. Choose unbreaded entrees.
Here is a recipe for no salt taco seasoning. Many people today make tacos for an easy-to-make dinner. The commercial mix has 380 milligrams of sodium for 2 teaspoons of mix. Ready-made mixes make it easy, but with just a few steps, you can make your own mix and store it.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
Makes 5 tablespoons. Mix ingredients well. Store in a tightly sealed container. Note the commercial 1.25 oz. has about 4 tablespoons of mix in each package.