Want a healthy heart? Start by watching the salt


Editor’s Note: The Switzerland County Health Coalition is a new organization that is committed to helping the people of Switzerland County overcome health problems through education. This is the third in a series of monthly articles that will discuss health issues that may impact you on a daily basis. This month’s information has been collected by Ginger Furnish of the Switzerland County Purdue Extension Service.


Get Heart Smart about Sodium

By: Lisa Franzen-Castle, RD, PhD,

Nutrition Specialist UNL

Having too much sodium in your diet may increase your blood pressure and raise your risk for not only heart disease, but also stroke and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are the nation’s first and third leading causes of death. Recently, sodium has been in the news a lot and not for good reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Americans on average get over 3400 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day, with the majority coming from packaged, processed, store bought and restaurant/fast food. Check out the following tips to get heart smart about sodium.

Tips to Be Heart Smart about Sodium

What are the recommendations? Check out the information on sodium according to the newly released (as of January 31, 2011) 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

– Adequate Intake (AI) levels 1 to 3 years: 1,000 mg/day

4 to 8 years: 1,200 mg/day

9 to 50 years: 1,500 mg/day

51 to 70 years: 1,300 mg/ day

71 years and older: 1,200 mg/day

– General Recommendations Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg/ day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).

– Specific Recommendations: Reduce intake to 1,500 mg/day (about one-half of a teaspoon) among those 51 years and older and those of any age who are African American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.


Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

– 90% of sodium we consume is in the form of salt. Sea salt is typically

marketed as being a healthier alternative compared to table salt. Although they differ in taste, texture and processing, they have the same basic nutritional value.

– Taste, texture, and processing.

Sea salt: Produced through evaporation of seawater, usually with little processing. Trace elements and minerals left behind add flavor and color, which also comes in a variety of coarseness. Here is some more on coarse sea salt from Morton®Salt and how its texture is different and best uses: http://www.mortonsalt.com/faqs/food_salt_faq.html#q9

Table salt: Mined from underground salt deposits, more heavily processed to eliminate trace minerals, usually has an additive to prevent clumping, and most has added iodine (nutrient that naturally occurs in tiny amounts in sea salt).

Bottom Line: By weight, they both have about the same amount of sodium chloride. In other words, sea salt is still salt. No matter which one you prefer because of taste, texture, or processing, you should still reduce your intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium a day if you’re a healthy adult.

Salt Substitutes – Are they right for you?

– Potassium: Many contain potassium chloride in place of sodium chloride. If you have kidney problems or are on medication for your heart, kidneys or liver, check with your doctor before using salt substitutes in place of sodium.

– Labels. Some are labeled “lite” or “low sodium” salt and still have sodium in them, just less than what is in table salt. These usually have a mix of sodium and potassium chloride. If a product is labeled “sodium free” then the main ingredient is potassium chloride with no sodium.

Lower the Sodium Threshold

– The preference for salty foods is something you learn, which means that over time you can reduce your cravings for salty foods or adding salt to your foods at meal times.

– When you lower your preference for salt, you can open yourself up to appreciating a wider range of flavors and food combinations.

– Start by adding fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (dried beans, lentils, split peas) into your diet more often.

– Gradually experiment by adding salt-free herbs and spices into your favorite recipes.

Try Going “Salt Free”

– Instead of mimicking the taste of sodium with salt substitutes, start experimenting with flavorful herbs and spices to add zest to food.

– Suggestions from UNL Extension Educator Alice Henneman: Savory flavors, and flavors with “bite,” such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill seeds, basil, ginger, coriander and onion, are the most effective in replacing the taste of salt.

Use minced or powdered garlic and onion rather than their salt form. If you substitute minced or powdered garlic and onion for the salt version, you only need about half as much.

Omit the salt when cooking pasta and flavor with basil, oregano, parsley or pepper.

Check labels to see if “salt” or “sodium” is listed among ingredients.

Food Labels are Your Friend!

– Most sodium in our food supply comes from packaged foods. Similar packaged foods can vary widely in sodium content.

– Use the Nutrition Facts Label to help you choose foods with a lower % Daily Value (DV) for sodium. Foods with less than 140 mg sodium per serving can be labeled as low sodium foods.

– Claims such as “low in sodium” or “very low in sodium” on the front of the food label can help you identify foods that contain less salt.

– Check out the example of a Nutrition Facts Label and see how fast sodium can add up!

First: look at the sodium listed on the label (In red box). Second: Look at the serving size information at the top (In blue box). Third: Calculate what you actually ate.

– One serving: If you ate 1 serving (serving size is 1 cup), you would get 470 mg of sodium.

– The whole container: If you ate the whole container (serving/per container = 2 x 1 cup), that would be 2 cups. You then have to take 470 mg times 2 (number of servings per the container) to calculate how much sodium you are getting, which in this case is 940 mg.