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Meghan Tiernan (MS, RD, LDN) is a registered dietitian with a passion for helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle. She strives to help others learn the most nutritious way to eat, in order to achieve good health. Meghan enjoys cooking and running and believes that with just some basic knowledge, you can gain the confidence in yourself to know that you can eat well.

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Dietitian Consult

 
by Meghan Tiernan, MS, RD, LDN

 
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Reducing the salt in your diet is not a new topic in the health world. It has been engaged in a never-ending battle between flavor and health.

The Great Salt Debate: Sodium in your foodRestaurants are working on reducing the salt in their foods, but it's not something that can happen overnight. These restaurants and chains rely on their food tasting really good so you go back and eat there again. I understand the ambivalence they have with taking big strides in altering one of the most basic and popular flavor-enhancers out there. We're not doing them any favors, either. We have very salty taste buds and have come to expect foods to taste a certain way in order to enjoy them.

On a promising note, studies have shown that once a person follows a low sodium diet, they actually start to prefer less salty foods overall. Unfortunately, it does take a period of time to reset your taste buds.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 9 out of 10 Americans consume too much salt in their diets, and 25% of that salt is coming from restaurants. For most Americans, especially ones with high blood pressure, the recommended amount of sodium per day is 1500 mg. For a healthy, young adult, it can go as high as 2300 mg, however, even with this higher number, keeping it below that is a challenge. Salt is found everywhere, even in fruits and vegetables.

It's the added salt to foods and table salt that are the main issues. It's a preservative and flavor enhancer, which is why it's used so often in prepared foods, at restaurants and in our kitchens. It helps foods taste better. It also wreaks havoc on our health. It significantly increases your risk for high blood pressure, among many other health issues. Did you know that high blood pressure is the leading cause of death in women in the United States? The worst part about that statistic is that it's largely preventable when not associated with genetics.

That being said, it's up to us to help support the food industry in their attempts to make positive changes. If we can be more tolerant to a slightly less salty version, it's not only improving our own health but that of those around us.

So, until there's a significant effort to reduce the overall sodium content in the meals that we order... what can we do right now, as things are?

1. Use condiments sparingly. Salad dressing, salsa, ketchup, etc. They may seem innocent but they can be loaded with sodium. Choose olive oil, vinegar, lemon and pepper to enhance the flavor of your dish.

2. Taste before you sprinkle. Whether you're at home or out, always taste what you're eating before you add extra salt. A single teaspoon of salt contains over 2300 mg of sodium. It's very potent stuff and adds up very quickly.

3. If the option is there, ask for your foods to be cooked without salt. This really only works if foods are cooked to order, but it never hurts to ask regardless of where you're eating.

4. Skip the sauces or ask for them on the side.

5. If you stick with a protein, veg and starch instead of a mixed dish, you can better control the amount of salt is on your plate.

What are some ways you cut down on the sodium in your diet?

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