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Shake It Off: The Surprising Truth About Sodium

If you’re cutting back on salt, either for weight loss or heart health, you probably start by skipping the salt shaker and salt-covered snacks like pretzels. What you may not realize is that the most sodium-laden foods, dubbed the “salty six,” aren’t so obvious.

The Numbers: Salt Intake in the U.S.

The American Heart Association’s guidelines suggest limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day, but most Americans are taking in more than 3,000 milligrams per day. Increased sodium intake has been linked to heart disease, stroke and obesity. Keeping your salt intake within healthy limits can pay off by decreasing your risks for chronic illnesses and by keeping your jeans from feeling too snug.

The Salty Six

Let’s take a closer look at the salty six and review ways to reduce your sodium intake when making food choices for you and your family:

1) Bread. When you sit down at a restaurant, bread is often the first course. Ask your waiter to skip it, and choose a side salad to start instead.

2) Pizza. Between the buttery crust, salt-laden seasonings, cheese and toppings, you can easily take in more than half of your day’s worth of sodium with one slice. Choose fresh veggie toppings and ask for less cheese to minimize the salt.

3) Cold cuts and cured meats. Common deli meats like turkey and ham have high sodium levels. Choose lunch meat at your local deli counter marked low sodium, and avoid cured meats like salami.

4) Poultry. Chicken breasts are seasoned or packaged with fillers that increase sodium levels in a way that’s tough to spot. Take a close look at the ingredients listed in your chicken, and when in doubt, choose a lower-sodium protein like fresh fish.

5) Soup. As the weather gets colder, many people reach for shelf-stable soups. Watch portion sizes in these prepackaged soups, and even better, make yours from scratch with your slow cooker, which is better on your heart health and your wallet.

6) Sandwiches. Your favorite sandwich combines a few of the salty six – bread and cold cuts. Pick a fresh veggie sandwich with hummus instead, or eat yours open-faced to limit calories and salty bread.

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