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How can I eat less salt? Add to ...

Do you have any easy suggestions on how to curb salt consumption?

Great question. Most Canadians consume too much sodium, a risk factor for developing high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. For good health, daily sodium requirements are 1500 milligrams for ages 19 to 50), 1300 milligrams for ages 50 to 70 and 1200 milligrams after age 70. Our sodium requirements become less as we get older because with age sodium impacts our blood pressure to a greater degree.

The majority of sodium we consume each day (77 per cent) is hidden away in processed and restaurant foods. Believe it or not, only 11 percent of our daily sodium comes from salt that's added during cooking and while eating. So to curb salt - or sodium - you really need to rely less on packaged convenience foods and, if it applies to you, eat out in restaurants less often. Here are a few tips to get you started:

• Read nutrition labels. Sodium levels vary widely across different brands of similar products. Compare brands of similar foods and choose one with a lower % Daily Value (DV) of sodium. Foods with a 5 % DV of sodium or less are low in sodium.

• Pay attention to portion size. Sodium numbers on a nutrition label will underestimate your intake if you consume more than the serving size indicated.

• Limit your intake of processed meats such as bologna, ham, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, deli meats and smoked salmon.

• Rely less on convenience foods such as canned soups, frozen dinners and packaged rice and pasta mixes.

• Choose pre-made entrees or frozen dinners that contain no more than 200 milligrams sodium per 100 calories.

• Substitute herbs and spices for salt when cooking - try garlic, lemon juice, salsa, onion, vinegar and herbs.

• Remove the salt shaker from the table to break the habit of salting food at the table.

• When dining out, stay clear of menu items described as pickled, marinated, smoked, barbequed, smothered (in sauce), teriyaki, soy sauce, broth, miso, gravy, bacon, and of course, salted or salty. These words indicate higher sodium meals.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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