Don’t Get Salty

by Dave on August 27, 2009

by Lisa Harkins, RD, LDN

My friends will tell you one of my favorite sayings used to be “Don’t get salty”, meaning, don’t be angry/irritated/cranky with whatever or whomever.  Coming at the saying from a different angle, with my nutritionist hat on, I certainly don’t want anyone to get salty, i.e. consume a high amount of dietary sodium.

“So what’s so bad about sodium anyway?” you are probably saying to yourself, dear reader. “It makes everything taste sooo good” you think, grabbing for the salt shaker to liberally sprinkle your hot corn on the cob from the Farmer’s Market.  Hold up-do you want hypertension?  Hypertension is a fancy word for high-blood pressure, a.k.a. the silent killer. One-third of Delawareans have been told by a health care professional that they have the chronic condition (and these are the people that KNOW they have it – remember it’s the silent killer) [] . High-blood pressure increases your chances for heart attack and stroke, due to restricted blood flow through your arteries. Although research is conflicting about whether or not diets high in sodium CAUSE hypertension, we do know that sodium makes the body retain water, which increases blood pressure in our vessels. So it’s recommended to decrease the amount of dietary sodium you consume.

So how much sodium should we have daily? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 2,300mg a day, or the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. Not much, huh?  And let’s clarify something here – sodium is a mineral and is used in processed foods to preserve, add flavor, or otherwise enhance a product. The dietary mineral salt is a compound chemical comprised of 40% sodium and 60% chloride, and is generally applied externally to flavor foods before, during or after processing or cooking.

In order to reduce our risk of hypertension and other conditions exacerbated by high-sodium intake and poor diet in general, one should avoid processed foods such as canned soups (even reduced sodium varieties can pack over 1,500mg per can), frozen entrees (unless specifically labeled as low sodium), flavored rices or noodles, processed meats (lunchmeats, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs), sauces, dressings, condiments, and pickled items (pickles, canned beets, sauerkraut). Read the labels!  For a product to be considered low sodium it must contain 140mg or less per serving, for a product to be considered very low sodium it must contain 35mg or less per
DON’T GET SALTY (from page 11)

serving, for a product to be considered reduced sodium it must have at least 25% less sodium per serving than original product, and for a product to be considered NO sodium it must contain less than 5mg of sodium per serving and have no added salt.

And ditch the salt shaker if (at least, when) you can. Fresh and dried herbs can be substituted for salt, but it’s critical to know which herbs are compatible with what foods to make a tasty impact. For a listing of herbs and the foods they best compliment become a fan of my Facebook page, Ideal Nutrition and Fitness and click on the “Notes” tab, then click on the “Herbs” posting.

Lisa Harkins is a clinical registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Centers and the owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC ( You can reach her at

This column first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, August 27, 2009.

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