Nutrition: Healthy Eating (cont.)

Lower Sodium and Increase Potassium

Higher salt intake is linked to higher blood pressure, which can raise the risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (approximately one teaspoon of salt). There are other recommendations for certain populations that tend to be more sensitive to salt. For example, people with high blood pressure, blacks, and middle-aged and older adults should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.

Most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods. Use the Nutrition Facts label on food products: 5%DV or less for sodium means the food is low in sodium and 20%DV or more means it's high. Compare similar products and choose the option with a lower amount of sodium. Most people won't notice a taste difference. Consistently consuming lower-salt products will help taste buds adapt, and you will enjoy these foods as much or more than higher-salt options.

Prepare foods with little salt. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends giving flavor to food with herbs, spices, lemon, lime, vinegar, and salt-free seasoning blends. Consult with your physician before using salt substitutes because their main ingredient, potassium chloride, can be harmful to some people with certain medical conditions.

Also, increase potassium-rich foods such as sweet potatoes, orange juice, bananas, spinach, winter squash, cantaloupe, and tomato puree. Potassium counteracts some of sodium's effect on blood pressure.

Limit Added Sugars

The Dietary Guidelines recommend choosing and preparing food and beverages with little added sugars. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages in processing or preparation, not the naturally occurring sugars in fruits or milk. Major sources of added sugars in the American diet include regular soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies, and fruit drinks. In the ingredients list on food products, sugar may be listed as brown sugar, corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, honey, or molasses. Be sure to check the sugar in low-fat and fat-free products, which sometimes contain a lot of sugar, Tanner says.

Instead of drinking regular soda and sugary fruit drinks, try diet soda, low-fat or fat-free milk, water, flavored water, or 100 percent fruit juice.

For snacks and desserts, try fruit. "People are often pleasantly surprised that fruit is great for satisfying a sweet tooth," Tanner says. "And if ice cream is calling your name, don't have it in the freezer. Make it harder to get by having to go out for it. Then it can be an occasional treat."



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