Let’s take a quick quiz:

What percent of Americans exceed the daily recommendation for sodium?

a) 70%; b) 80%; c) 90%

Which of these items is the top source of sodium, according to the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

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a) Meat, poultry and seafood mixed dishes; b) Rice, pasta and other grain-based mixed dishes; c) Sandwiches

The answers are both “c.” About 90% of Americans exceed the sodium limit and much of our sodium comes from sandwiches.

Our salt shakers are not the main culprit in our collective high intake of sodium. On average, 11% of our daily sodium intake comes from a combination of our salt shakers and the salt added in cooking. Most salt comes from processed food and restaurant foods, according to a 2017 study.

5 tips to promote heart health through mindful eating

When we consume too much sodium, our body retains more water to maintain the proper fluid balance, which can raise our blood pressure. Hypertension puts an extra burden on our heart and blood vessels, which can cause damage throughout the body.

  • To reduce sodium, limit processed foods such as ham or frozen dinners and restaurant-prepared foods. Prepare homemade meals because you have the most control of how much sodium gets added. When you are in a grocery store, opt for “low in sodium” or “reduced sodium” products.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts labels when you buy prepared and packaged foods, and watch for the words “soda” (referring to sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda) and “sodium.” These products contain sodium compounds. Sea salt and kosher salt also are forms of sodium chloride.
  • Consider reducing the sodium in your diet by choosing foods that are naturally low in sodium, such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables without sauces or seasonings.
  • Try fresh or dried herbs (without added sodium) to add flavor to your food.

  • Drain and rinse canned beans and canned vegetables. Rinsing canned beans reduces their sodium content by as much as 40%. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, draining vegetables reduced the sodium content anywhere from 9% to 23%, depending on the type of vegetable.

Like many things in life, salt is an acquired taste. We build up a tolerance for it and we “expect” it in the foods we eat. If you gradually reduce the sodium in your diet, you’ll slowly adjust to the less salty flavor. Experiment with new recipes that rely on herbs and spices instead of salt.

Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/nourishyourbody for more information about taking care of your heart and the rest of your body. Click on “heart” to learn more.

Article used with permission from Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension, NOURISH newsletter, Issue 37. For more information, contact the Stutsman County Extension office at 252-9030 or email luella.morehouse@ndsu.edu.