Hidden Salt, a.k.a "The Salty Six"

It's no secret that sodium can play a villainous role in our health. We've all heard that the average American consumes far more sodium than we should, increasing our risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.  The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends fewer than 2,300 mg sodium/day for many Americans but fewer than 1,500 mg/day for people 51 and older, African-Americans, and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Earlier this year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 9 out of 10 Americans consume too much sodium daily. Before even picking up the salt shaker, the average American takes in about 3,300 mg sodium/day, more than twice the recommended amount for about half of Americans and 6 out of 10 adults.

Research has determined that the lion's share of sodium isn't coming from our salt shakers. So, where are we getting the recorded high intakes?  The American Heart Association (AHA) dug into a February 2012 CDC Vital Signs report detailing the top 10 sources of sodium in our diets which account for 44% of our sodium intake. The AHA took it from there, creating a catchy way to help us all remember which foods account for most of the hidden salts. They recently debuted these foods as "The Salty Six," the top six sources of sodium in our diets culled from the CDC's list of top ten salt-packers.

There's nothing exotic about "The Salty Six."  Instead, they're the everyday foods that make up mainstays for many Americans. A few of these were obvious picks for high-sodium foods but some others are likely to come as a surprise - either because we don't think of them as high sodium or because we just haven't stopped to do the math.

The Vital Signs report reveals that the top 10 sodium -sources in our diets account for over 40% of individual sodium intake.  The most common sodium-sources in our diets are:

1. Breads and rolls

2. Cold cuts and cured meats - deli meats, bacon,

3. Pizza

4.  Poultry

5.  Soup

6. Sandwiches including cheeseburgers

7.  Cheese

8.  Pasta - mixed dishes

9.  Meat - mixed dishes

10.  Savory snacks - chips, popcorn, pretzels, and puffs

Finding out where the sodium is hidden is the first step. The next, and very critical step, is finding out how to get a handle on our intake. The article, "Strategies for Conquering 'The Salty Six'" gives you a headstart with item-by-item sodium saving tips for keeping sodium in check while keeping these foods on your plate.

Strategies for Conquering "The Salty Six"

Here are some practical strategies for reducing sodium intake from the top sodium bombs in our daily diets.

1. Breads and Rolls - Bread undoubtedly heads the list because holding sodium down in bread making is tricky (it impacts flavor, yeast activity, and bread structure) and we reach for bread multiple times a day. One slice of bread can have 230 mg/sodium, but it's not just the loaf of bread at home that's upping our sodium intake, but also what we choose away from home as well.

 -  There's a wide range of sodium levels in package breads so read the labels before making your choice, noting the serving size in slices. There are some specialty breads marked low-sodium available in specialty markets.

-  Skip the bread basket when dining out. Or, commit to one piece and send the basket back with the waitperson to make sure you stop at one.

-  Watch your coffee shop choices.  Although not included in the study, fruit and nut bread, scones and biscuits can be not the best choices when looking to cut back on sodium. Leavened with chemical leaveners, i.e. baking soda and/or baking powder two higher sodium ingredients, those coffee shop nut breads and scones can put a dent in your sodium allotment. Try the instant oatmeal with your coffee instead.

2.  Cold Cuts and Cured Meats, including bacon - Two ounces of deli meat can account for almost half of daily recommended sodium allowances. Most deli sandwiches have more than two ounces of meat, further increasing the sodium intake.  Those "pile-it-high" sandwiches pile on more than protein!

-  Try replacing the cold cuts in your homemade sandwiches with home-roasted turkey breast, roast beef, or pork loin.  Roast the meat for dinner then thinly slice leftovers for lunches and salads.

-   Keep your portions down to 2 ounces when choosing deli meats and other cured meats. Reach for veggies instead of cheese to fill out the meal since many cheeses are high in sodium.

-  Ask for lower-sodium options at sandwich shops and look for lower sodium varieties in packaged and slice-to-order deli meats. One national brand offers a deli turkey with 340 mg/2 ounce serving - 47% less sodium than their regular product. Some deli meats come in at over 1,000 mg/ serving, so choose wisely.

3.  Pizza - The average pizza doesn't stand much of a chance on sodium-watch: the crust, sauce, cheese, and any non-veggie topping all come with a copious amount of sodium.  When it's all said and done, that slice of pizza with multiple toppings can easily add up to over half a day's sodium allowance.  Pick up another slice and you're over the top!

-  Making your own pizza is the perfect way to reduce the sodium. Buy ready-to-use crust from the grocer or pizzeria, choosing the lowest sodium available and stretching it thin. Or, make it yourself. Then top with one of the great lower-sodium marinara sauces in the market.  Finely grate the cheese to make more go further and finish off the pie with your favorite veggies.  If meat makes the pie for you, finish the pizza off with diced lower-sodium Canadian bacon.

-  Choose thin crust pizza in the pizzeria or the freezer case. Cutting back on the bread saves you sodium.

-  At the pizzeria, go with veggie toppings and don't order extra cheese. There's more than enough hard-to-control sodium in the crust, sauce, and regular amount of cheese. No need to sprinkle more on top.

4. Poultry - We're on track to eat more chicken than beef this year as we have every year since 1992, making sodium in poultry and poultry products something to keep a keen eye on.

-  Read the labels carefully when buying any poultry or poultry products, selecting poultry that hasn't been injected with saline solution or flavor enhancers. If you're buying from a butcher-served case, ask if the chicken or turkey has been brined, salted, or injected with saline or flavor enhancers, as brining can increase the sodium level from 75 mg per per 4 ounces uncooked meat to 353 mg. 

-  Season poultry yourself rather than choosing pre-seasoned chicken strips or ground turkey. Use boneless, skinless chicken breast if at all possible and try to make your own nuggets or entrees, avoiding sodium-laden fast food options.

- Watch the coating in chicken recipes. Breading can add salt. Going with unseasoned breadcrumbs or panko and adding your own herbs and spices can greatly reduce sodium levels in the final dish.

5.   Canned Soup - Canned soup is an American favorite! Three varieties of canned soup are among the top 10 products sold in grocery stores weekly while on average and Americans stock six cans of the market leader's soups in our pantries at all times. But sodium in soups can range from 100 mg/serving to 900 mg/serving, so be sure to put them on your sodium radar and keep your meals healthy.

-  Don't be afraid to cook with water and add your own herbs and seasonings. You don't have to reach for broth to flavor your rice or green beans. Appreciate their natural flavors and build your meal from there. 

- Serve-yourself soups in grocery stores and delis along with some restaurant soups may indeed have come from a can or pouch and be very-sodium heavy.  Do your body a favor and get the numbers before you ladle out the soup.

6.  Sandwiches ­- Kudos to the researchers at CDC for not letting the sodium in sandwiches slip in under the rug.  Often created from bread slathered with high-sodium spreads, cold cuts, and cheese - number 7 on the sodium sources in our diet-, the typical sandwich needs a little tweaking to lower the sodium.

-  There are more and more lower-sodium cheeses on the market, with reduced levels in some American, Muenster, Swiss and Provolone choices. There's even a no-salt-added Swiss. Read the label and ask at the deli counter.

-  Cheeseburgers fall into this category. To save on the sodium in restaurants, try a burger with no cheese or don't eat the top of the bun.

-  Mustard and mayo are standards for day-to-day sandwiches. Ketchup is a natural for burgers and hot dogs. Read labels carefully and choose carefully. One teaspoon of plain yellow mustard has about 55 mg while that same teaspoon of Dijon comes in at 120 mg/teaspoon. If you're a serious mustard person and brown-bag it to lunch, you might have some fun investigating making your own mustard.

-  Try stirring your favorite herb, roasted garlic, or smoked paprika into fat-free Greek Yogurt as an easy substitute for mayo. At home, spread no-salt-added tomato paste on the burger or use it as a dip for oven-roasted fries. 

Why Bread Might Be the Cause for Your High Blood Pressure

Many Americans consume more sodium than they know. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that claims that nine out of 10 Americans eat too much salt.

According to the report, the average person consumes around 3,300 milligrams of sodium daily. The figure, which does not include the amount of added salt to a meal, exceeds twice the recommended intake for half of Americans. Those who are 51 and older, African-American or have high blood pressure or kidney disease are advised to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Sodium is responsible for increases in blood pressure and has been responsible for numerous health problems, including strokes and heart disease. In fact, the effects of high consumption of sodium go beyond health-related issues. The country reportedly spent approximately $273 billion in health care money on such health problems in 2010.

"Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in the United States and are largely dependent on the high rate of blood pressure," said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.

As Reuters reported last week, at least 10 different kinds of food account for 44 percent of daily salt intake, and bread appears to be the major culprit. Though bread may not have much salt in one single serving, regular consumption of this popular staple often contributes to high sodium levels. A slice of white bread, for instance, already contains close to 230 milligrams of salt.

In order to combat high sodium intake and its health-related effects, the CDC encourages Americans to eat more vegetables and fruits. They should also choose products that have the lowest salt content.

"One of the things that is driving blood pressure up is that most adults in this country eat or drink about twice the amount of sodium as is recommended," Frieden said. "Most of that extra sodium comes from common grocery store and restaurant items and a very small proportion from the salt shaker at the table."

Lower High Blood Pressure Through Food

Health

It's pretty devastating to see that young adults are now being affected by hypertension. A recent study estimated that 1 in 5 young adults suffers from high blood pressure. The study focused on adults ages 24 to 32, and found that 19 percent of the 14,000 participants included in the research had high blood pressure. That's quite a lot for a health issue that has long affected an older demographic. But what can you do to improve your blood pressure? 

Of course there are medications that can help regulate this issue, but there are dietary methods of controlling hypertension as well. Here are a few food-related ways to help reduce high blood pressure and get back into a healthy zone.

Exercise: Get moving! There's no better way to lose weight than to get on your feet and be active. Being active doesn't have to mean joining a gym, it could be something as simple as a one-hour stroll around your neighborhood or to the farmers' market a few times a week. If adding in extra movement to your routine seems a big undertaking, check out these five tips for staying active during the workday.

Reduce Sodium: Season with herbs and spices. A recent study has alleged that cayenne can help you lose weight, a double bonus. Many healthy sauces http://marcussamuelsson.com/news/get-fit-for-summer-top-5-healthy-sauces can serve as a flavorful foundation for a meal. Try topping a lean chicken breast with pesto, or fold a chutney into a quinoa marcussamuelsson.com/tag/quinoa pilaf.

DASH Diet: DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it gives simple guidelines for reducing high blood pressure. Centered around lots of fruit and vegetables and eating low-fat dairy and whole-grains instead of saturated fat and cholesterol-heavy foods, many who suffer from high blood pressure might be daunted by the dietary changes needed. However, there are endless delicious recipes that follow this eating plan. In fact, the DASH diet is similar to a Mediterranean one. Try one of these recipes for a blood pressure friendly meal.

* Lemon and Herb Farro-Stuffed Peppers * Summer Salad Recipe * Fruit Salad * Baharat-Roasted Sweet Potatoes * Turmeric Tofu and Cauliflower Mash with Shrimp and Tomatoes * Warm Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Poached Eggs, and Caramelized Onions