Bring on the Barbeque – But Back off of the Salt
Fire up the grill this weekend, but skip the salty seasonings, marinades and processed meats. Excessive salt intake contributes to heart attack and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.
“Daily intake of 2,400 milligrams of sodium, about a teaspoon of salt, is fine,” said Dr. Steven Dina, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield medical director. “Unfortunately, Americans are eating 50 percent more than they need, mostly by consuming processed foods purchased in grocery stores, or consumed in restaurants.”
Salt is an acquired taste that can be unlearned, said Dina. “It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of sodium, but once it’s done, people notice that processed foods taste way too salty.”
He offers these tips to reduce sodium in your diet:
- Always read food labels to check the sodium content.
- Compare various brands of the same food item until you find the one with the least sodium.
- Beware of products that don't taste salty but still have high sodium content, such as cottage cheese.
- Use fresh, rather than packaged, meats. If a food item keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks, it’s likely the sodium content is high (sorry hot dogs!).
- Choose fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible.
- When buying frozen vegetables, choose those that are labeled "fresh frozen.”
- Select spices or seasonings that don’t include sodium, like garlic powder instead of garlic salt.
- At a restaurant, ask if the dish you ordered can be prepared without salt.
For more suggestions, view this chart from the national Kidney Foundation showing some convenient salt substitutes.