Finland’s national campaign to reduce salt intake and the noticeable decline in stroke and heart disease. Like Finland we must recognize that we all eat too much salt. Americans generally consume at least one-and-a-half teaspoons of salt a day, far more than what the body needs. Current U.S. recommendations call for a maximum of one teaspoon of salt (2,300 milligrams of sodium) a day for the general population and two-thirds of a teaspoon (1,500 milligrams of sodium) for people who have high blood pressure or are at high risk of developing it such as individuals with diabetes, kidney disease, or heart failure.
The big challenge is how to cut back. Most of salt consumption comes from eating prepared foods, like ready-made breads, crackers, canned food, frozen food, breakfast cereal, cheese, cold cuts, cured meats, pizza, poultry (often infused with salt water), soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, meat dishes and almost all restaurant food. Reducing our intake would mean a huge change in how the food industry prepares its products. It is important to recognize that salt is a cheap additive that enhances flavor. This is the likely explanation for an increased presence as we see a decrease in freshly prepared foods. Many food companies have already shown that it is possible to make modest to significant cutbacks in sodium without sacrificing taste. Many lower sodium foods are now becoming available in
stores marked as “low sodium”. We can also make an effort to reduce sodium at home by adding fresh, unprocessed food into our diet like fruit, vegetables, nuts, minimally processed grains, eggs, fresh poultry and fish. Also note that if you lower sodium in your diet, your body doesn’t expect food to taste as salty and you begin to appreciate the natural flavor of food. It generally takes about six weeks to regulate our taste receptors to a lower sodium diet. Don’t think that you have to sacrifice all flavor in food by cutting down on salt as there are so many natural flavors available to enjoy! Using herbs, spices, and other natural flavors is a great way to season food. Experiment with fresh or dried garlic, oregano, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, or tarragon. Try bolder seasonings such as curry, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, or paprika. Create tangy marinades using lemon juice, lime juice, and flavored vinegars. Lemon juice actually activates the same taste receptors as sodium, so try a squeeze of lemon on your food instead of salt! You can also save time using naturally low sodium, ready-made seasoning blends available in most grocery stores. Start the journey today by becoming aware of your salt intake. Make simple changes over time to slowly decrease consumption and get on the road to better health!