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Tips for Cutting Back on Salt

En español | For people with congestive heart failure or continuing problems with high blood pressure, the advice is simple: Cut back on salt.

That means cook more from scratch and avoid high-sodium processed foods like deli meats, pickles, fast food, takeout and canned soup. And don’t forget to read the serving size and sodium content on labels.

Cardiologist Edward Geltman, who’s also a professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, says he remembers visiting a patient in the hospital who was having heart failure problems. On her bedside table was a prepackaged pickle. Horrified, he asked her, “You’re not planning on eating that, are you?”

“But it only has 245 mg of sodium,” she told him.

What she hadn’t noticed was the serving size, says Geltman. That 245 mg was for one-ninth of a pickle, basically a thin slice.

Here are some other ways to be sodium savvy:

  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re naturally low in salt.
  • Read the sodium content on nutrition labels, and make sure you check serving size.
  • Products that are low-fat or low in sugar often add extra salt to enhance the flavor. Check the label.
  • Avoid these surprisingly salty foods: Bottled spaghetti sauce, canned beef stew, boxed macaroni and cheese, prepared pancake and waffle mix, prepared cheese sauce, frozen dinners.
  • Switch to sea salt or kosher salt. Although they contain the same amount of sodium by weight as regular table salt, people tend to use less because the grains are bigger and deliver a bigger punch to your taste buds.

Remember: If your food came from a box, bag or can, it probably has more salt than you need.

Candy Sagon writes about health and nutrition for the Bulletin.

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