The Daily Star
---- — High blood pressure affects many seniors, putting them at risk of heart disease and stroke. The risks are much higher if they have diabetes, too. Researchers also found that there was no measurable difference in salt intake between people who had been advised to lower their salt intake and those who had not received any medical advice on salt intake.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers have found that despite warnings from the health care community, Americans are still consuming too much salt in their diets. Even those with high blood pressure are still eating more than the recommended daily amounts.
The biggest problem that has been identified is that most people do not understand that regular table salt is not the only source of sodium in the diet. Remember food does not need to taste salty to be high in sodium. Table salt is sodium chloride, but other chemicals containing sodium such as monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium benzoate are used in foods as flavorings or preservatives.
You may want to consider a few simple steps in reducing your sodium intake. The first step would be to stop adding salt to your food. To accomplish this you can start by removing the salt shaker off the table. Do not add salt when cooking. Experiment with low- or no-salt herbs, spices, and seasoning mixes such as garlic or onion powder, black or lemon pepper, or fresh lemon juice.
Second, learn to read food labels. By reading food labels, you can learn which foods are high and low in sodium. As a rule, most processed food, whether they are frozen, canned or boxed, are high in sodium. For example, most frozen TV dinners, frozen snack foods such as pizza rolls and egg rolls, canned vegetables, and instant hot cereals are high in sodium and should be avoided.
Third, choose fresh foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables including freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices have very little sodium. The same is true for fresh meat, poultry, and fish. Generally, you can eat as much fresh food as you want without counting the sodium content. Think fresh. If you are unable to eat fresh foods then consider choosing those foods low in sodium as much as possible.
Finally, it can be difficult to change your eating habits. It may take weeks before you enjoy the taste of low-sodium foods. You need to make changes gradually instead of all at once. Eventually you may not even miss the salt.
If you would like help in sorting out your diet, you may want to consider talking with a dietitian. If you are 60 or older, you may want to contact your local Office for the Aging to inquire about dietary counseling. Remember that a dietitian is an excellent resource who is knowledgeable and able to assist you with lowering the amount of sodium in your diet.
Wayne Shepard is director of the Delaware County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.