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Salt - How to Shake the Habit

Our top tips for reducing your sodium intake

Although salt is essential to our health and the proper working of our bodies, when we consume too much of it, it can raise blood pressure, heightening the risk of health problems such as heart disease and stroke. 

The alarming fact is that most of us are eating much more sodium than we need, even if we never pick up the salt shaker. In fact, 75% of the sodium we eat is already in everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals. In fact, the top six sodium sources in the U.S. diet include: breads & rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, soup, sandwiches and poultry. This can make it hard to control how much salt consume, because it is often already added to our food before we buy it.

What is the recommended daily intake? 

On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day,* significantly more than 1,500 milligrams recommended by The American Heart Association.

How can I reduce my sodium intake?

Trying to reduce your salt intake may seem like a daunting prospect, but a low-sodium diet doesn’t have to be bland! According to research, salt preference is in fact something that can be unlearned, and on average it takes about 6-8 weeks to get into the habit of eating food with much lower quantities of salt. Once you’re over that hurdle, you’ll probably find it difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste too salty.

Top tip’s for avoiding salt

At BOU we're on a mission to help you reduce the amount of salt you consume, which is why every BOU cube has 30% less sodium than other leading stock cube brands. Here are some easy ways to cut down on your daily sodium intake, without compromising on flavor!

At the supermarket

  • Do you research - Compare different brands of the same food item in order to find the one that has the lowest sodium content.
  • Check the Label! The sodium content of food is always listed on the packaging so check the back to see how much salt it contains. As a general rule, if salt is listed in the first five ingredients, the item is probably too high in sodium to use.
  • Try to avoid packaged meats. Although fresh cuts of beef, chicken or pork contain natural sodium, during the processing of meats like bacon or ham, a lot of extra sodium is added. A good rule of thumb for telling if the sodium content of a food is too high is if it keeps well in the fridge for days or weeks.
  • When possible, choose fresh fruit and vegetables over canned or frozen.
  • If you do buy frozen vegetables, try and choose those that are labelled "fresh frozen" and do not contain added seasoning or sauces.
  • Pick fresh and frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution. Check the fine print on the packaging for terms like “broth,” “saline” or “sodium solution.” Sodium levels in unseasoned fresh meats are around 100 milligrams (mg) or less per 4-ounce serving.
  • Choose condiments carefully. Soy sauce, salad dressings, salsas, dips, ketchup, mustard, pickles, olives and relish can be particularly high in sodium so try and look for a reduced or lower-sodium version.
  • Choose spices or seasonings that do not list sodium on their labels, i.e. choose garlic powder over garlic salt.

At home:

 A low-sodium diet doesn't have to be bland...far from it! By becoming less reliant on salt to bring out the flavor, you will start to appreciate ingredients for their natural flavor and find creative ways to enhance the dish.

  • As a substitute for salt, why not try cooking with other spices and seasonign such as onions, garlic, herbs and spices, citrus juices and vinegars in place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans (like chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) and vegetables – this can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent.
  • If you don't like the taste of lower-sodium equivalents of foods such as soups and pasta sauces, try mixing them with the regular version. You won't notice the difference in taste as much and it's a great way of weaning yourself off high-salt products. 
  • Cook pasta and rice without salt, instead adding other flavorful ingredients such as garlic and onion. 
  • Cook by grilling, braising, roasting, searing, and sautéing to bring out the natural flavors in foods and thereby reducing the need to add salt.
  • Finally, don't forget that although sea salt may look like it contains less sodium than ordinary table salt, it often contains just as much!

     At restaurants:

    • Enquire about the sodium content of the menu items before ordering. According to a new law, restaurant chains with 20 or more branches, are requires to provide the nutritional information of their dishes to customers upon request.  
    • Alternatively, request for the dish to be served without salt and ask for any sauces to be served on the side as they often contain high levels of salt. 
    • Taste your food before reaching for the salt shaker. If you think it needs some more flavor, try adding some black pepper or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime and test it again before adding salt. Lemon and pepper are especially good on fish, chicken, and vegetables.
    • Look out for dishes which have been pickled, brined, barbecued, cured or smoked and for those that include a broth, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. These all tend to be high in sodium. Instead, opt for foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted as they are likely to have less sodium.
    • Control portion sizes - it sounds obvious but when you reduce the amount of calories you consume, you usually reduce your sodium intake too. 

    * Statistic from SodiumBreakup.com