February is Heart Health Month! This month is the perfect time to start thinking about ways to reduce your blood pressure and other risks for cardiovascular disease.
Watch this video from the American Heart Association to learn about blood pressure:
Know your numbers!
Here are the guidelines for blood pressure from the American Heart Association:
So what can you do to help control your blood pressure?
Most of us have heard that we should watch out for sodium and probably try to steer clear of the salt shaker. However, the food industry uses a lot of salt in some unexpected places. Here are steps you can take to control your blood pressure:
- Monitor your sodium intake by reading labels
- Eat healthfully
Sodium Guidelines & Label Reading
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) of sodium per day. However, a typical Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. A recent survey of 1,000 people found that 33% couldn’t estimate how much sodium they ate and another 54% thought they were eating less than 2,000 mg sodium a day.
Fact: 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300 mg sodium
Monitoring how much sodium you eat every day would be too time consuming so here are some tips on what to look for on your labels:
- A good rule of thumb is to look on the Nutrition Facts Label and choose foods with <240mg sodium per serving. Or, if you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems, choose foods with <140mg sodium per serving.
- Choose foods with a % Daily Value for sodium of 5% or less.
- Here are some other terms you may see on labels:
- Sodium-free – Less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving and contains no sodium chloride
- Very low sodium – 35 milligrams or less per serving
- Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving
- Reduced (or less) sodium – At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level
- Light (for sodium-reduced products) – If the food is “low calorie” and “low fat” and sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
- Light in sodium – If sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving
- Limit processed foods.
- Increase fruits and vegetables (just check the labels for added salt).
- These foods typically contain very high amounts of sodium and should be limited or avoided:
What about sea salt?
Most people believe that sea salt contains less sodium than regular table salt, which is actually not true. Sea salt is a less processed product. Most salts contain about the same amount of sodium across the board. Moral of the story: limit all salts and check labels.
Won’t my food be bland without salt?
No! After you start cutting back your salt intake your taste buds will change and you won’t notice the lack of salt in your foods. Also, you can experiment with different herbs, spices, and other flavors to make your food taste sensational, without the added salt! Check out this article from the American Heart Association on using herbs and spices. You can also use citrus, vinegar, and spicy flavors to bring out the flavors in your foods.
Check out all of the delicious recipes from the American Heart Association to reduce your sodium intake. Enjoy!