It’s not just table salt you need to think about.
With the invention of processed foods in the mid-twentieth century, Americans have consumed increasing amounts of salt. Americans consume an average of more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day, far more than the ideal recommendation of less than 2,000 mg (FYI, that’s less than one teaspoon of salt). On average, 75 to 80 percent of that sodium comes from processed foods—not the salt shaker on our dinner table.
Excess salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, stroke, and other heart-related issues. For anyone diagnosed with heart failure, it’s critical to cut back salt consumption.
Salt is one of the major causes of deterioration of the heart in heart failure patients, according to New York City-based cardiologist Dennis A. Goodman, MD. Treating heart failure won’t be solved by a one- or two-week no-salt cut-back; instead, it requires a lifestyle change—a lifelong commitment to nixing major sodium sources from your diet.
It’s impossible to cut out sodium completely. Salt is used to flavor and preserve food. That means it’s heavily used in processed, packaged foods to increase shelf life, as well as in preserved foods like pickles and olives, or cured meats like bacon or sliced deli meat.
Here are Dr. Goodman’s tips for cutting back on salt:
1. Know the magic number: Stick to fewer than 2,000 mg of sodium a day. Your doctor can let you know if you should aim to eat even less.
2. Avoid foods that come in a can, jar, box, or plastic bag. As much as possible, use fresh ingredients or lower-sodium substitutes. (Here are some of the foods recommended for a heart-healthy diet.)
3. Rinse off jarred or canned items (such as beans or capers). Research has found this can reduce the amount of salt by 40 percent.
2. When eating salty or processed foods (even if it says low-sodium), be sure to check the nutrition label on the back to ensure it actually meets your criteria for a heart-healthy item. The total amount of sodium you consume in the entire day should stay under two grams (2,000 mg).
4. Watch for “sneaky” salt on restaurant menus when you eat out. Words like “teriyaki,” “soy,” “brine,” “pickled,” or “smoked” are clues your meal is probably saltier than is healthy. You can also ask your server to see if the kitchen can use less salt in preparing whatever dish you order.
5. Mix salty ingredients with no-salt ingredients to lower the salt content of your meals without losing flavor. Keep reducing the amount of the salted product over time until your taste buds have adjusted.
6. Keep the salt shaker off the table. Try enhancing the flavor of food with black pepper, fresh herbs, or no-salt spice blends.
7. Read labels religiously. Look and see what you’re getting. It’s especially key to pay attention to serving sizes when you do this, since it’s easy to eat more than one serving at a time.
The more you can incorporate these heart-healthy habits into your diet, the less your heart failure symptoms will disrupt your life. For more tips, here are heart-healthy habits to treat heart failure.
Dr. Goodman is board-certified in cardiology, internal medicine, lipidology, integrative medicine, and cardiac CT. He is the director of integrative medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center and a clinical professor of medicine at NYU.
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Low-Salt Diet is extremely important, why?
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Because sodium holds onto fluid,
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the more you're fluid overloaded
the more you're gonna be symptomatic.
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Get short of breath and the more
that you're gonna put a strain and
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stress on your heart.
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It's extremely important that
people understand that salt
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is one of the major causes for
deterioration of heart failure.
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So, it's a lifestyle change,
it's not a one week or two week or
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two months, it's forever.
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And I think that patients for the most
part don't understand is that there's
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a lot of salt, in a lot of what we eat.
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The one very, very important thing
is to understand you wanna cut salt
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intake down to no more
than two grams a day.
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You can start off by knowing
that processed food accounts for
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80% of the salt in the diet.
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So, when you get anything processed,
which means it's a can,
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it's a jar, it's a box,
it's coming out of a plastic bag.
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You know that you gonna have high salt
intake content and you should check and
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see what it is.
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You can use water to rinse baked beans and
40% of the salt can be removed.
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If you go to a restaurant and you don't
realize they not gonna go salt added.
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But if they use a word like soy or
teriyaki or barbecue or brine or smoked.
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That's usually a signal or a sign,
a clue, you're getting a lot of salt.
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So, that's very, very important,
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that you're aware of these
terms that are often used.
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One of the hardest things for patients is,
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they start to realise they don't like the
taste of the food when there's no salt.
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I tell them,
well then maybe you can mix it.
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Get something with no salt and
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then mix a little bit with something
that does have salt in it.
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Start to slowly reduce it and eventually
your taste buds get adjusted and
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you won't miss the salt.
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But having a salt shaker on
the table is a fairly big mistake.
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You wanna avoid the things
that are very salty.
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So, to come back to these caned foods,
look on the label.
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Patients know the magic
number of two grams.
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You can look at see what you're getting
and try to keep it under two grams, and
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then you're on a low salt diet.
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The average American is get about 3500
milligrams of salt a day, often much more.
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We know that when you cut
back to two grams of salt,
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even if you don't have heart failure,
your blood pressure will come down.
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- How to Reduce Sodium Intake. CDC; Atlanta, GA. 2020 (Accessed on December 22, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/salt/reduce_sodium_tips.htm)
- Sodium in Your Diet Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intake. FDA.; Maryland, 2020 (Accessed on December 22, 2020 at https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet)