7 Ways to Cut Sodium and Be Heart Healthy

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A diet high in sodium can have a negative effect in the health and could lead to the development of heart disease. According to Ryan Whitcomb, RD Whitsons Culinary Group Registered Dietitian, there are certain simple steps that anyone can apply to reduce sodium intake and be heart healthy.

A diet high in sodium can have a negative effect in the health and could lead to the development of heart disease

We train ourselves to enjoy salty flavors. Try cutting salt out of your diet for two weeks, and then go back to your usual intake. You’ll notice a difference, and chances are you won’t like what you taste!

February is Heart Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A key risk factor in heart disease is high blood pressure since this condition can damage the arteries, the heart and other organs in the body. A major culprit to the development of hypertension and heart disease is a diet high in sodium. The current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day; however, the average American consumes double that amount on any given day.

Sodium is ubiquitous in foods as it is used to preserve or add flavor to them. According to Ryan Whitcomb, RD, Whitsons Culinary Group’s Registered Dietitian, “The most alarming fact is that without even realizing it, we ingest a large amount of sodium every day. It is present in canned and some frozen vegetables, in smoked meats, cheeses, and in most processed foods. Keep in mind that large amounts of sodium can increase your blood pressure, forcing your kidneys and heart to work harder."

Nonetheless, keeping sodium levels low is not an impossible task. Here are Whitcomb’s tips to reduce sodium consumption:

1. Enjoying salty flavors is merely a learned habit. The need to add salt to flavor food is actually an acquired taste. Whitcomb says, “We train ourselves to enjoy salty flavors. Try cutting salt out of your diet for two weeks, and then go back to your usual intake. You’ll notice a difference, and chances are you won’t like what you taste!”
2. Make small dietary changes. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned ones. Instead of regular cold cuts, try low sodium ones.
3. Limit consumption of processed foods such as frozen meals, fast food, and canned soups. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium as it is used to preserve the quality of the food over time and add flavor.
4. Add an extra step in the cooking process. As an alternative to buying ready-made beef patties, which may contain sodium, try buying lean ground beef and making burgers from scratch. Or, when making soup, make extra servings that could be frozen for the next time a quick meal is needed.
5. Do it slowly. To be more successful cutting the consumption of salt, don’t drastically decrease sodium intake at once. Do it gradually: this would ensure the body gets used to the new flavors and doesn’t crave salty foods anymore.
6. Beware of the condiments. Some condiments, even though not necessarily salty, can contain large quantities of sodium such as ketchup, sauces (BBQ, steak, chili, taco, etc.), salad dressings and mustard.
7. Use other items to jazz up meals and keep them heart healthy. Use herbs, spices and other flavorings such as zest from citrus fruit and fruit juices instead of sodium packed MSG and salt.

About Whitsons:
Whitsons Culinary Group, in conjunction with health association and nutrition professionals, has developed a signature wellness program called Smart Choices™ which places an emphasis on tasty and nutritious foods that provide good health choices. The Smart Choices™ meals contain less than 600 calories, with no more than 30% of calories from fat, zero trans fats, less than 66mg of cholesterol, less than 10% of saturated fat and 670mg of sodium or below.

Whitsons Culinary Group provides a wide range of highly customized dining services to public schools, corporations and institutions, with a strong focus on nutritious, high quality menus made from fresh, wholesome ingredients. Whitsons has a long and proud history of excellence and growth since 1979 and currently ranks the 16th largest dining company in the United States (Food Management magazine, September 2011). Whitsons’ scope of expertise and services extends to: emergency dining, residential and healthcare dining, prepared meals, and school dining and services.

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Sonia Garrido
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