Cutting Back On Salt? 4 Tips To Reduce Your Sodium Intake

Many Americans consume more salt than they require with estimations suggesting 90 percent of the population fails to follow the recommended limits.

"It's easy to over-consume this mineral. People tend to take in more salt than they realize because salt is in every canned or packaged food, used in all restaurant cooking, is in fast food and is often in bottled beverages," explained Brigitte Zeitlin, founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition.

While sodium (which comes from salt) is an important nutrient, it can damage our health when consumed in excess. Experts have linked excessive consumption to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. A recent study even suggested high sodium intake may lead to a higher death rate.

While a major chunk of the effort comes down to getting used to the taste of food with reduced salt intake, here are 4 tips to keep in mind and cut back effectively: 

1. Read the nutrition facts labels

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises people to follow the reference amounts provided by the daily values so you can make sure that you are staying under limits. The daily value for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day.

The FDA also urged people to pay attention to the serving size listed on the labels. The nutrition information listed on the label often applies only to a single serving.

2. Make a habit of preparing food

Even when they don't taste salty, high levels of sodium are often found in processed snacks, packaged foods, and takeouts. These include canned soups, pizza, bread, potato chips, instant foods, popcorn, and more.

By cooking your food from scratch, you can limit how much salt you add during preparation. Reducing the portion size of foods that may contain salt is also easier. And if it helps in resisting temptation, you can consider getting rid of the salt shaker from the dinner table.

3. Use alternatives to add flavor

Annemarie Aburrow, a registered dietitian from the United Kingdom, recommended various herbs and spices that can serve as natural salt alternatives.

In addition, citrus can also be a great way to add some flavor to your meal. Squeeze lemon juice over salads and roasted vegetables next time, you might even find it more flavorful than salt.

4. Make requests when dining out

At fast food outlets, it helps to skip or reduce your intake of french fries, ketchup, pickles, chips, soy sauce, etc. But restaurant meals can sneak excessive sodium into your diet, so making a simple request when ordering can go a long way.

"Most chefs will easily comply with skipping that step of salting food before it is served," said Stephanie Ferrari, a Massachusetts-based registered dietitian. "Also, don’t be shy about asking your server which menu items have no added salt."