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Are you looking to cut back on salt?

December 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Most Americans realize that a high sodium diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Yet the average American consumes far more than the recommended daily limit of 2400 milligrams. Are you looking to cut back on salt? Many people trying to shake the salt habit look for lower-sodium options. But which can make the cut tastefully?

Testers had nearly 100 staffers at Consumer Reports taste-test less-salty versions of high-sodium foods like pasta sauce, turkey breast, and chicken noodle soup.

People were asked if they would eat each food again, not knowing they were testing lower-sodium foods.

Overall, low-sodium pasta sauces were disappointing.

"They all seemed pretty non-descript and similar," said one taste tester.

People liked the lower-sodium turkey breast much better. Their favorite? Dietz and Watson Gourmet Lite. A two-ounce serving has just 240 milligrams of sodium and 78 percent of the tasters said they'd eat it again.

Then preferences started to go down as the sodium content went up.

"Adding sodium is a cheap way to improve the taste and texture of processed and prepared foods," said Gayle Williams.

Canned soups in particular pack a lot of sodium. All three of the reduced-sodium chicken noodle soups taste-tested had nearly 500 milligrams in a one-cup serving. And when it came to taste, none stood out.

"There are plenty of ways to add flavor to foods without adding salt. Herbs, spices, citrus juice, and flavored vinegars are all good choices," said Williams.

And if you're still craving the real deal, Consumer Reports testers sized up salt blends and substitutes. Diamond Crystal Salt Sense tasted closest to real salt, with roughly 33 percent less sodium.

Actually it's just plain smart to check on every food you buy. Many will surprise you. For instance, healthy cereal has 230 milligrams, yet a serving of tortilla chips has half that at 110 milligrams. Taste isn't always an indicator.


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