Sodium is a naturally-occurring mineral present in much of the food that we eat. Our bodies need sodium to help regulate blood pressure, maintain nerve function, balance mineral levels, and remove excess fluid from the bloodstream.
The problem is that most of our diets contain way too much of the stuff. We only need between 1,200-1,500mg of sodium per day, but the average American takes in nearly three times that amount. Excess sodium can contribute to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, increased stroke risk, stomach cancer, kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
And if those weren’t bad enough, it also causes the body to retain excess water, which can make you bloated and puffy. Yikes! Thankfully, there are some pretty easy ways to cut down on your sodium intake and curb your salt addiction.
Break Out the Herbs and Spices
One of the reasons we’re so addicted to salt is the flavor it offers. Something about it seems to make other flavors really pop. But salt isn’t the only ingredient that can give your entrees that extra oomph. Herbs and spices can be just as flavorful as salt, if not more so. True, they can’t make your next meal taste “salty,” but they can make it so flavorful and savory that you won’t even miss the salt. Stock up on sage, garlic, parsley, winter and summer savory, basil, and cilantro, or grow your own. On your pantry shelves, make sure you always have garlic and onion powder, a variety of peppercorns, chili peppers, and anything else that suits your fancy.
Make it From Scratch
It’s no secret why processed foods have become so popular. They’re convenient, inexpensive, and let’s admit it: pretty tasty. But they’re also chock full o’ the bad stuff: sugar, fat, and enough salt to preserve an elephant until the year 3030. When you take the time to make your own food from scratch, you’ll know exactly what’s going into the recipe, and you’ll be able to cut plenty of sodium out of your diet.
Read the Labels
Some foods, you just know are full of sodium without having to read the label. Others might surprise you. Pancake mixes, breakfast cereals, breads, ketchup, canned veggies, and soups often have way more sodium than you’d assume, based on their flavor. So if you’re trying to cut sodium out of your diet, reading food labels and selecting lower-sodium varieties of your dietary mainstays can make a huge difference.
Eat Plenty of Raw Fruit and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are delicious, filling, and great for you. Plus, they have basically zero sodium. By filling up on fruits and veggies, you’ll be less tempted to reach for salty snacks.
[Photo Credit: cookinglight]