Holiday Health Tip for Shoppers - Skip the Added Salt

December 14, 2016

Here are some great tips to share with shoppers for lowering sodium intake this holiday season.

It is a common misconception that the majority of our salt intake is due to a heavy handed sprinkling of salt from the table salt shaker. In fact, processed foods and restaurant meals contribute to upwards of 75 percent of our total daily sodium intake. Here is some information so your team can help inform shoppers about sodium in their foods.

Sodium, a mineral element obtained from foods, is critical for proper functioning of the body. It is necessary for controlling fluid levels, is important in proper nerve conduction, allows certain nutrients into and out of cells, and assists in maintaining optimal blood pressure. The intestines absorb dietary sodium, while the kidneys excrete sodium into the urine. This balance is continually regulated by the kidneys and intestines.

Studies have linked sodium intake with hypertension (high blood pressure), one of the leading risk factors for heart disease, the number-one killer in the US Approximately 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, including more than half of those aged 60 and above. In addition, 45 million people have what is considered "pre-hypertension", a category that falls between normal and clearly high blood pressure levels.

The American Heart Association recommends that most adults consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium (a little more than half a teaspoon) per day—and for African Americans, middle-aged and older adults, and those with hypertension, the AHA recommends a daily sodium intake of less than 1,500 mg.

Dairy, meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables naturally contain sodium. For example one cup of 1 percent low-fat milk contains 107 mg of sodium. But natural sources only contribute to about 5 percent of the average person’s total daily intake.

The major sodium offenders are processed foods — canned vegetables, soups, deli or lunch meats, processed cheese, savory snacks and frozen foods. Many pre-packaged meals can contain upwards of 1,000 mg of sodium per serving!

To help shoppers lower salt intake at home, suggest they try experimenting with spices such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, coriander, dill, basil, garlic, onion, and ginger. Sometimes adding salt to a dish is simply a lazy impulse — it's easy to forget that adding spices can transform the taste of formerly bland food and recipes.

To add an extra punch to chicken or fish, squeeze a little lemon juice and a splash of vinegar on top. You'll never know it's salt-free. SupermarketGuru also recommends sprinkling lightly toasted sesame seeds or flax seeds on top of finished plates can add an interesting flavor — and the unique crunch adds an extra dimension to the texture.

Suggest lower sodium foods to shoppers and help them read labels for those products not labeled low sodium, shoppers may be surprised about how little or how much sodium some foods contain. Supermarketguru thinks that when your shoppers start cutting down on sodium intake; soon, they won't miss it at all. In fact, you shoppers will discover new spices and food flavors that are healthier and more enjoyable.

Always suggest your shoppers speak with a health professional, or your in store dietitian before making any dietary changes, as decreasing sodium/ a low sodium diet is not appropriate for everyone. As mentioned above, sodium is a critical electrolyte that helps with nerve and muscle function as well as maintaining blood pressure.