New proposed U.S. dietary guidelines designed to reduce salt in Americans' diets will save lives eventually, but people should take steps right now – before the recommendations are finalized – to cut down and protect their health, a top expert says.
“This is good news because salt kills, and we see the results in the form of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. But there’s no reason to wait for the government to take action – people should get rid of their salt shakers now,” Dr. Chauncey Crandall tells Newsmax Health.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month issued draft voluntary guidelines aimed at major food manufacturers and big chain restaurants, warning them they need to reduce the amount of salt that is contained in the processed food they sell and serve.
The FDA proposed a daily sodium intake of 2,300 milligrams a day, down from the current average adult intake of about 3,400 milligrams a day long-term.
“These guidelines are a good because I see the result of people eating too of salt everyday in the hospital," says Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
More than 70 percent of the sodium consumed in this country is already in food before it reaches the table, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. This is because of the amounts of salt already contained in packaged foods like bread, salad dressing, canned soup, and cheese, as well as added to restaurant meals.
“Most people, especially as they get older, are eating more of their meals in restaurants, where the overuse of salt to provide flavor is rampant,” says Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report
“Another huge problem is the overuse of salt in the travel industry. I’ve had patients come off of cruises and they are in congestive heart failure because of all the salt they’ve ingested during the meals. Snack foods on airplanes, like chips, pretzels, and the like, are loaded with salt, and when they disembark, their blood pressure is up.” says
Here are Crandall's tips for cutting your salt intake:
• Throw away your saltshaker.
Given the amount of salt in most foods, there is no reason to add it. Also, although it will take time for your taste buds to grow accustomed to less salty food, they will, and you’ll get to taste even more flavor in food.
• Eat whole, fresh foods.
Choose organic foods whenever possible. Packaged and processed foods are often packed with salt, not only for flavor but also as a preservative.
• Learn to use herbs and spices.
Try seasoning foods with lemon juice, black pepper, ginger, fennel, bay leaves, rosemary, ginger, and garlic, instead of salt. Use them in cooking as well. Flavored vinegars are also great food enhancers. Be careful with salt substitutes – some are a blend that includes salt (called "sodium" on labels) or they may contain potassium chloride, which may not be safe for people with kidney problems, so you may want to check with your doctor first.
• Banish condiments.
Salt is often hiding in condiments, like ketchup, barbecue sauce, meat tenderizers, and especially soy sauce.
• Snack smartly.
Chips, pretzels, and crackers get their taste (and addictive quality) from salt. Substitute fresh veggies or, for a treat, try unsalted or lower-sodium versions of your favorites.
• Pick fresh veggies (or frozen).
Fresh vegetables are your best choice, and, when they aren’t available, choose frozen. Canned vegetables are often prepared with salt, and sometimes sugar as well.
• Watch out for “hidden salt.”
The use of salt started out as a preservative, but now its found in almost all packaged and processed foods. Cereals, tomato sauce, frozen pancakes, processed cheese, bread, salad dressings, and even so-called “healthy” vegetarian frozen foods can be sources of hidden salt.
• Beware fat-free or sugar-free foods.
When ingredients like fat and sugar eliminated, manufacturers usually add salt to compensate.
• Avoid cured foods.
Hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, and even foods like sliced turkey, ham, or chicken often contain added salt.
• Steer clear of fast foods.
Burgers and fries are prime salt offenders, and so is Chinese food, which may be packed with salt and additives.
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