Government health experts say people should only eat about a teaspoon of salt a day (2,300 mg), but most of us consume twice that. Cutting our daily salt by even a little could make a big difference.
If the residents of Los Angeles County, for instance, cut their salt intake by 20% (about a quarter teaspoon a day), we would have 52,629 fewer cases of hypertension and save $102 million a year, according to a county health department report released this fall. About 48% of adults ages 45-64 in the county suffer from hypertension, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. And hypertension (aka high blood pressure) is becoming a bigger and bigger problem among kids.
How to shake the shaker?
• More than two-thirds of the salt in most Americans’ diets comes from processed and restaurant foods, so read labels and look for low-salt options on restaurant menus. A reasonable sodium level is 200-300 milligrams for a snack, and 400-500 milligrams for an entire meal.
• Check out lists of low-sodium recipes at www.dashdiet.org or through the Mayo Clinic.
• At the table, don’t reach for the salt shaker – or at least don’t shake so much. Over time, if you cut the salt in your food gradually, you won’t miss it.