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Taking the Salt Out of the “Salty Six”

The American Heart Association singles out these foods as the biggest sodium offenders. Here, you’ll find tweaks for a healthier diet all around.

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The Salty Six

If you have high blood pressure you’re probably already taking steps to limit salt intake. The truth is, if you don’t have hypertension, there are nutrients that age you unnecessarily (wrinkles!), before salt (such as saturated fat and added sugar). We’ve even brought up the debate about whether a very low-sodium diet could be detrimental to health to individuals who did not have high blood pressure.

QUIZ: Are You Eating For Your Beauty?

Still, overconsumption of sodium is more common than getting too little salt. We are supposed to get less than 1,500mg a day (less than 1 teaspoon of table salt!). Most Americans far supercede this limit. The culprit? Sodium’s in most everything you eat, and now the American Heart Association (AHA) is highlighting the top foods with excess sodium, aptly named “The Salty Six.” Before we jump into the list, here’s some context. A teaspoon of straight up salt contains 2,300mg of sodium. When you look on a nutrition label, a serving’s worth of sodium that’s within the safe range are as follows:

  • Sodium-free = Less than 5mg per serving
  • Very low sodium = 35mg or less
  • Low sodium = 140mg or less

MORE: How Hunger Works

Take a look at how transforming the Salty Six encourages a healthier diet in general:

1      Bread and rolls. This tops the list because we Americans simply consume too much bread, period. A 1-ounce slice has 100 to 200 mg of sodium. Limit your intake to the size of a disk (100-percent whole grain, only of course—you want to avoid those wrinkles, or at least enjoy better orgasms).

2      Cold cuts, cured meats. Skip these altogether. The preservatives add a criminal amount of sodium to your meal. If you must do meat, lean ham and lean pork (tenderloin) will have less salt. Drop the Canadian bacon!

3      Pizza. It’s the perfect storm: bread, cheese, pepperoni and marinara sauce. One slice alone can make up more than half of your daily recommended intake! Go homemade with no-salt-added sauce, 100% whole wheat or other-grain-you-love dough, low-sodium cheese and leave the pepperoni at the door with the delivery. 

4      Poultry. Go skinless, lean and grilled. Watch out for grilled chicken sandwiches at popular fast food restaurants, those have 820-1330mg of sodium! That’s almost your day right there.

5      Soup. Make your own rather than canned (those ”low-cal” soups have around 800mg)! Choose a low-sodium broth and season with spices and herbs. There are some soups you can enjoy (see our "You: On A Diet" for several really great ones with less—some way less—than 480 mg of sodium per serving)  For the main attraction, try dried beans and fresh vegetables.

6      Sandwiches. Use the same meat alternatives as you do soup. Don’t forget about tofu and seitan! As for PB & J, try natural nut butters without added salt. To avoid going overboard on bread: open-faced sandwiches or fresh lettuce wraps.

MORE: The Science of Comfort Food

And keep in mind, high blood pressure and sodium affects more than your heart—those darn wrinkles. Too much salt can decrease calcium levels in your body. So lowering your salt consumption keeps your bones stronger. Not to mention, no one looks as good with eye bags and a puffy face, the day after a salty-food fest.

One final trick to outsmart sodium: Foods with potassium dampen sodium effects and even help relax your muscles. Dark leafy greens and white beans are just brimming with potassium—those keep you feeling and looking younger. Remember, skip the cans!  

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