Monday, January 3, 2011

Lowering Sodium Intakes

You may have noticed that recipes that I share on this blog, and the most of the recipes that are posted on the Wildwood website call for lower sodium ingredients when possible.  This is because the average American gets too much sodium in their diet.  While sodium does have some important roles in the body such as controlling fluid balance, as well as maintaining blood volume, too much has a negative impact on most people.  It is especially important that we help children limit their sodium intake.  Not only have foods high in sodium been linked with increased intake of sugary drinks, a recent study showed that eating smaller amounts of salt each day as a teenager could reduce high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adulthood.  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day for most people, while the average person gets more than 5 times this amount!  Interestingly enough, the majority of sodium in our diets comes from processed and restaurant foods, not the salt shaker. 

Cooking from "scratch" at home can greatly decrease the amount of sodium in your meals.  If you are not quite a "scratch" cooker, you can still decrease the amount of sodium that you serve by choosing lower sodium varieties of canned or packaged foods.  You will also find that as you decrease the amount of sodium in your food, you will be happy with less.  I follow a fairly low-sodium diet and when I try foods that I used to think were seasoned appropriately, they are too salty to me now. 

Here are some more tips for cutting back on sodium:
  • Buy fresh and frozen vegetables with "no added salt" or added sauce.
  • Buy canned vegetables that are the "no added salt" variety. 
  • Rinsing and draining canned vegetables such as beans can also greatly reduce the sodium level.
  • Canned tomato sauce is usually high in sodium, substitute tomato puree for a lower sodium pick.
  • Use fresh meat, poultry and fish rather than the canned or processed varieties (such as smoked, cured or deli meats)
  • Make homemade soups and broths so you can control the amount of salt that is added.  Or at least look for "low sodium" varieties of packaged broth and soup.  When adding salt to soups or casseroles, add it at the end to prevent adding too much.
  • Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.  Or use half the salt that you usually do and substitute a herb blend (such as Mrs. Dash) for the other half.
  • Cut back on convenience foods such as instant flavored rice and pasta, or instant oatmeal packets. 
  • Always read food labels because some foods can be unexpectedly high in sodium such as breakfast cereals and bread.
  • Packaged bread crumbs can be high in sodium.  Try a lower sodium variety such as matzo meal or panko, or make your own!
  • Limit the amounts of condiments that you use or look for lower sodium varieties (soy sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings).  You can also find recipes on the web in many places to "make your own" condiments such as chili sauce, etc that will have less sodium than the packaged varieties.  I have also had great success in substituting tomato puree for part of the ketchup in some recipes.
Go to the Wildwood website recipe page to find our recipe for a lower sodium version of Spanish rice mix (using bulgur), a recipe for seasoned noodles with less sodium than the packaged kind, and a seasoning mix for tacos that is lower in sodium than the packaged mixes you can buy.

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