Most Americans consume more than twice the recommended daily sodium limit of 2,300 milligrams - the amount in just 1 teaspoon of table salt. The New York City Health Department launched a program to encourage manufacturers to cut sodium in packaged foods in half.
You can launch your own campaign to cut back on sodium and do your heart good. Here are 5 easy ways to cut sodium from your diet:
•Don't add it if you can't taste it. As a rule, I don't add salt to boiling water for pasta or potatoes. I prefer to add salt to a dish when its impact will be strongest - usually at the end of cooking. A little salt goes a longer way if it's sprinkled on a food just before serving; you'll taste it in every bite.
•Use sea salt. Even if you're watching your sodium intake, you can enjoy sea salts. While gram for gram sea salts contain as much sodium as table salt, their larger crystals and unique flavors, derived from various sources, may result in your using less salt overall, says Chef Kyle Shadix, M.S., R.D., director at Nutrition-Plus Culinary Consultants in New York City.
•Use fresh ingredients whenever you can. You'll save umpteen milligrams of sodium by making your own sauces and soups, and simmering dried beans until soft. Make these staples more convenient by cooking them in big batches, and freezing in single-serving portions for later use.
•Use convenience foods wisely. Opt for frozen (unsauced) vegetables rather than canned - and when you can't, seek out low- or reduced-sodium varieties. Rinse the foods before using to get rid of some of the salt. Cut back or eliminate additional salt in a recipe that calls for canned goods.
•Look for low-sodium products. A can of soup or broth, or any food really, with a "reduced sodium" label may actually have as much sodium as a "regular" version of another brand. The term "reduced sodium" - also called "lower sodium" - is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and means only the product contains at least 25 percent less than its original version.
If you're really watching your intake, look for "low sodium" on the label: that product can't have more than 140 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams (about 336 milligrams per cup).