Trim the salt from your diet to protect your health for years to come

By The Editors of Huffington Post Healthy Living
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Americans simply eat too much salt.

Most of us average more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, even though the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2,300 mg each day for healthy young adults. People who are "salt sensitive"-those whose blood pressure increases dramatically with salt intake-are supposed to stick with less than 1,500 mg. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends that everyone limit their salt intake to 1,500 milligrams.

And while 1,500 milligrams might sound like a substantial allowance, it's actually quite small: a single teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams of sodium. That's more than a day's worth by even the more liberal guidelines.

What's so dangerous about salt, anyway? While a little bit is essential, a diet high in sodium can cause strain on the heart, explains the Mayo Clinic. That's because when we consume excess salt, it stays in our bloodstream, attracting water and creating a greater volume of blood. That, in turn, increases blood pressure as the heart has to work harder and the arteries endure more to move more blood. High blood pressure increases the likelihood that a blood vessel will clog or rupture, causing a cardiac event.

For example, those who have excessively high blood pressure, of which diet plays a significant part, have more than twice the lifetime risk of stroke compared to those who have consistently normal (a reading of 120/80) blood pressure, according to the National Stroke Association.

So what can we do? The American Heart Association issued a challenge last week, asking Americans to focus on lowering their salt intake with these simple tips. Read on for their tips and more!

Have you successfully lowered your sodium intake? Tell us how in the comments.

Choose Fresh or Frozen Over Canned

Frozen and fresh veggies often contain little salt, but those found in cans often contain sodium as a preservative, an insidious way that salt can creep into the diet.

RELATED: These nasty chemicals mess with your figure and your health. Here are six expert tips to reduce your exposure.

Ditch the Condiments

Just a tablespoon of soy sauce contains more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Try leaving it off your food or find a low-sodium alternative, such as balsamic vinegar.

Eat Less Bread

When we think "processed foods," bread doesn't usually come to mind. But a loaf of bread can be a surprising source of salt, with about 230 milligrams per slice.

Skip the Deli Meat

While meat has naturally occurring sodium, the curing process that deli meat goes through adds a substantial amount, as well. A serving of sliced deli turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. Instead, choose fresh roasted turkey or a vegetarian alternative.

Make Soup at Home

Soup full of veggies and lean meat-what could be healthier? If you opt for the canned variety, you might be getting a blast of salt: one cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have as much as 940 milligrams of sodium. Instead, try to make a simple soup at home so that you can control exactly how much salt is going into it.

Keep Chicken Simple

Plain, lean cuts of chicken and turkey are healthful, but once you start adding marinades, bread crumbs, and other flavorings, poultry can go from a heart-healthy "do" to a sodium-laden "don't."

The AHA reports that chicken nuggets, for example, can have upwards of 600 milligrams of salt per serving.

Eat Pizza Sparingly

Everyone knows pizza isn't great for you, but that doesn't keep it from being one of the main sources of sodium in the American diet, according to the AHA. And with 760 milligrams of sodium per slice, it's easy to see how the salt can add up quickly.

RELATED:You don't have to give up cheese completely! Check out these 10 healthy recipes to satisfy your cravings.

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