A safe level of sodium is considered to be about 1/2 to 11/2 teaspoons per day (1/8 to 1/2 for children), but most Americans consume two to three times that amount-10 percent from natural foods, 15 percent from the salt shaker, and 75 percent from processed foods.
You can’t rely on salty taste to judge the amount of sodium in a food. Processed foods contain sodium in other forms (sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, and sodium sorbate, for example). Moreover, the sugar in cookies, cakes, and other desserts masks the taste of salt.
Cutting back at the market
Look for low-sodium, reduced sodium, or unsalted products. Low-sodium foods contain less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving; reduced sodium means that normal sodium levels have been cut by 75 percent.
Caution: Salt substitutes are available, but persons suffering from diabetes, heart or kidney disease, or receiving other medical treatment should consult with their doctors before using one.
Cutting back in the kitchen
Try halving the salt in your favorite recipes. Then, the next time, halve it again. Taste food first, adding salt a pinch at time. Herbs, spices, fresh garlic, and lemon juice can serve as partial substitutes for salt. By rinsing canned vegetables before using, you can wash away some of the sodium. Cutting back at the table Taste your food before reaching for the salt shaker. Use one shake only. Remove the salt shaker from the table or substitute one with smaller holes or put out an herb shaker. The less salt you use, the less salt you will want. Give yourself 2 to 3 months to adjust. You’ll find that new flavors emerge.