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Courtney Davis: Moving beyond the salt shaker

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Courtney Davis

Americans like salt. While our bodies need a small amount of sodium in order to function, Americans typically consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, quite a bit more than the recommended 2,400 milligrams per day that are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015).

Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which may increase the risk for a heart attack and stroke. Reducing sodium, which includes salt or other sodium-containing ingredients, is beneficial in reducing risks for these health related conditions. Follow these tips to reduce daily sodium intake.

Read the nutrition label. The nutrition facts label is one way to identify foods low or high in sodium. The percent daily value listed on the nutrition facts label can help you quickly determine if a food is low or high in sodium. Remember this rule for sodium: if the percent daily value is 5 or less, this is a good bet. If the daily value is 20 percent or more, leave it at the store. Be sure to choose foods with 5 percent sodium more often.

Know foods with sodium. Knowing common foods high in sodium can help to make choosing lower sodium options easier. Major sources of sodium include processed foods like canned products, breads, deli meats, snack foods and mixed dishes. Look for foods labeled as "low sodium" or "reduced sodium" and choose these foods.

Choose lower sodium foods at the store. Choosing foods lower in sodium can help reduce your daily sodium intake. When you are at the store, compare different brands for condiments, canned foods, breads and other sodium-containing foods. Different brands of foods can have different sodium levels. Choose the lowest sodium between the foods you compare.

Season your foods with herbs and spices. Herbs and spices are a great way to season your food without salt. Try these salt-free seasonings that can easily be made at home to keep your foods flavorful without the salt:

Chinese five spice — ¼ cup ground ginger, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 1 tablespoon anise seeds, 2 tablespoons ground cloves. Makes ½ cup. Best for chicken, fish and pork.

Mixed herb blend — ¼ cup dried parsley, 2 tablespoons dried tarragon, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried dill weed, 1 tablespoon dried celery flakes. Makes ½ cup. Best for salads, pasta salads, steamed vegetables and fish.

Curry blend — 1 tablespoons turmeric and ground coriander, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, ginger and black pepper, 1 teaspoon powdered cloves, cinnamon and ground nutmeg. Makes ½ cup. Best for rice, vegetables and chicken.

Italian blend — 2 tablespoons dried basil and marjoram, 1 tablespoon garlic powder and dried oregano, 2 teaspoons thyme, crushed dried rosemary, and crushed red pepper. Makes ½ cup. Best for pasta, chicken, pizza and herbed bread.

Mexican chile blend — ¼ cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin and onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, garlic powder and ground red pepper, ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Makes ½ cup. Best for chili, tacos, fajitas, beans and enchiladas.

Poultry seasoning — 6 tablespoons ground sage, 2 tablespoons ground thyme. Makes ½ cup.

Reducing sodium in the foods we eat can take a little practice. The tips listed are just a few of the many ways to begin reducing sodium. If you would like to know more about sodium and health, tips on reducing sodium, or how to identify sodium in foods, contact me at 940-349-2882 or cmdavis@ag.tamu.edu.

COURTNEY DAVIS is the family and consumer sciences county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension.