Sodium, a main component of salt, is essential to your bodyís functioning. It helps transmit nerve impulses, makes your muscles work and maintains the proper balance of body fluids.
For people who are sodium sensitive or have hypertension, reducing sodium intake can lead to markedly beneficial health effects. But even if you donít have high blood pressure, limiting sodium as part of a healthy diet may decrease your risk of developing blood pressure problems and heart disease.
Your taste for salt is both acquired and reversible. As you use less salt, your preference for it will lessen. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Womenís HealthSource offers ways to control sodium intake.
* Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods. Fresh foods are naturally low in sodium. Most sodium in the average Americanís diet -- 77 percent -- comes from eating processed and prepared foods such as preserved meats, canned foods, frozen foods and commercial baked goods.
* Shop for products low in sodium. A low-sodium product contains 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving -- 5 percent or less of the recommended daily sodium intake.
* Limit use of sodium-rich condiments. About 11 percent of the sodium in the average diet comes from adding salt or condiments -- ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, soy sauces --to foods while cooking or eating.
* Use herbs and spices for added flavor. To enhance vegetables, try parsley, basil, chives, ginger, cumin, oregano or lemon. For meats, add bay leaves, peppercorns, ginger, rosemary, sage or even cranberries.