Want to avoid dying prematurely? A new study suggests reducing salt intake would lead to a longer life.
According to a study published last week in the European Heart Journal, those who always add salt to their meals had a 28% higher risk of premature mortality than those who rarely or never added salt. Additionally, the life expectancy among those at age 50 is more than two years lower for those who always add salt.
“Most of our salt consumption comes from salt added to food prepared by the industry, for example in common products such as bread and cheese, but also ready-made foods and other items,” wrote study co-author Annika Rosengren. “Adding salt is a source of profit by increasing preference for salty foods and making food products more palatable to people already used to a diet high in salt. A reduction in added salt in food produced by the industry is very unlikely to cause harm, while oversalting common products reduces the opportunity for people to choose for themselves and contributes to the development of hypertension.”
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that adults consume no more than a teaspoon a day of salt. The FDA added that 70% of most adults’ consumption of sodium comes from prepared foods.
Rosengren recommends upping the intake of fruit and vegetables to reduce salt intake.
“So far, what the collective evidence about salt seems to indicate is that healthy people consuming what constitutes normal levels of ordinary salt need not worry too much about their salt intake,” she said. “Instead, to counterbalance potentially harmful effects of salt, and for many other reasons, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables should be a priority on the individual, as well as the population, level.”
One thing the study could not establish is what is the optimal level of salt intake.
The FDA offers the following tips for reducing sodium levels in food.
- Read the Nutrition Facts label Compare and choose foods to get less than 100% DV (less than 2,300 mg) of sodium each day.
- Prepare your own food when you can Limit packaged sauces, mixes, and “instant” products (including flavored rice, instant noodles, and ready-made pasta).
- Add flavor without adding sodium Limit the amount of table salt you add to foods when cooking, baking, or at the table. Try no-salt seasoning blends and herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to your food.
- Buy fresh Choose fresh meat, poultry, and seafood, rather than processed varieties. Also, check the package on fresh meat and poultry to see if salt water or saline has been added.
- Watch your veggies Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce or seasoning), or low sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables.
- Give sodium the “rinse” Rinse sodium-containing canned foods, such as beans, tuna, and vegetables before eating. This removes some of the sodium.
- “Unsalt” your snacks Choose low sodium or no-salt-added nuts, seeds, and snack products (such as chips and pretzels)—or have carrot or celery sticks instead.
- Consider your condiments Sodium in condiments can add up. Choose light or reduced-sodium condiments, add oil and vinegar to salads rather than bottled dressings, and use only a small amount of seasoning from flavoring packets instead of the entire packet.
- Reduce your portion size Less food means less sodium. Prepare smaller portions at home and consume less when eating out—choose smaller sizes, split an entrée with a friend, or take home part of your meal.
- Make lower-sodium choices at restaurants Ask for your meal to be prepared without table salt and request that sauces and salad dressings be served “on the side,” then use less of them. You can also ask if nutrition information is available and then choose options that are lower in sodium.