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Guidelines to reduce daily sodium intake

January 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
You've most likely heard that restaurant food, freezer meals, soup and luncheon meat are heavy handed with the salt shaker, but if you're not checking labels, you would be shocked at just how much.

While many food manufacturers are slowly cutting back on salt, there are a slew of salty surprises found on market shelves that many of us buy, yet we have no clue that they can cause us problems.

Government recommendations were 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but the new guidelines suggests no more than 1,500 milligrams daily. If you eat three squares, you would estimate about 500 milligrams per meal as reference.

Check breakfast foods. Many cereals have a lot, like bran with raisins has 350 milligrams in a one cup serving. A blueberry bagel has 390 milligrams. Even an unsuspecting breakfast bar has 85 milligrams.

A mere two ounces of deli honey ham contains 660 milligrams, and a half can of soup offers the same. A low-fat tortilla has 450 milligrams of sodium before filling it up.

Another shock - diet ice teas to soda. One punch was found to have 110 milligrams per serving, which is less than half the bottle by the way.

Sauces and salad dressing are also salty sinners. A half a cup of pasta sauce contains 650 milligrams, and a serving of ranch dressing adds 300 milligrams to your salad.

The more salt you use, the more you will want it, but there are alternatives. Acid foods like flavored vinegars, lemon and tomatoes not only add flavor but intensifies that of other food.

Herbs can add loads of zest to a dish from basil to thyme, and don't discount spices like cinnamon, tumeric and chili pepper to perk up a plate.

There are some minerals that can push sodium out of your system, like potassium, magnesium and calcium. You can get those from foods like baked potatoes, avocados, nuts, yogurt and milk - all tasty ways to give salt the sweep.

If you are curious as to just how much of these minerals to get in a day:

How much of these minerals should you have in a day?

Potassium - 4,700 milligrams a day.
Good sources:
Baked potato with skin 925 mg
½ cup avocado 585
1 cup plain yogurt 575 mg
½ cup boiled beans (black to pinto) 300 - 485
½ cup cooked greens like spinach 420

Magnesium - 420 milligrams for men, 320 milligrams for women. If supplementing, take no more than 350 milligrams. But with food, you can eat unlimited amounts.
Good sources:
3 oz. Halibut 90 mg
1 oz. Almonds, cashews or peanuts 50 to 80 mg
½ cup cooked spinach 75 mg
Baked potato with skin 50 mg
1 cup yogurt 45 mg
½ cup avocado 35 mg

Baked potato, avocado and yogurt contain both magnesium and potassium.

Calcium - 1,000 milligrams if you are a man or a premenopausal woman. Men 50 to 65 should aim for 1,200 milligrams, and men older than 65 and post menopausal women should look for 1,200 to 1,500 mg in your food
Good Sources:
1 cup yogurt 415 mg
3 oz. Sardines with bones 325 mg
1 cup skim milk 300 mg
½ cup tofu or 1 oz. Mozzarella 205 mg
½ cup cooked greens 50 to 120 mg
Nuts like almonds or Brazil ? 1 oz ? 5 to 70 mg.

Yogurt, cooked greens and nuts contain both magnesium and calcium.

Two good sources to find even more on salt solutions are Consumer Reports on Health newsletter, January 2011 and Prevention magazine, January 2011.