Cutting just one teaspoon a day will protect your health now--and for years to come.
Problem: Over time, ingesting large quantities of the mineral can harm your health. Sodium binds to water, so when you consume too much of it, blood volume increases, making your blood vessels and your heart work harder. This raises blood pressure--a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A high intake may also cause tummy troubles: One new study found that people who eat a high-sodium diet are 70 percent more likely to suffer from heartburn-causing acid reflux.
Recommended maximum: 2,300 milligrams a day
Average daily consumption: 4,600 milligrams (before accounting for mealtime shaker use)
1. Use half the salt called for in a recipe and add it at the end of cooking. You'll get more flavor from it, because the longer something cooks, the more diluted the salt becomes.
2. Season with herbs, juices, and spices in place of salt.
3. Choose low-sodium versions of your favorite prepared foods, like soups, salad dressings, and deli meats. (They should have less than 140 milligrams per serving.)
4. Rinse canned vegetables and beans to get rid of up to half the salt.