By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
5:53 p.m. EDT, March 22, 2011
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Enjoying that cottage cheese? We have a bit of bad news for you -- a cup of the stuff could contain roughly 1,000 milligrams of sodium, a little less than half of what you should consume in an entire day. Using three packets of ketchup on those fries? There's another 534 milligrams.
Making people aware of how much sodium may be in certain foods is the idea behind a series of "Salt Shocker" videos produced by the L.A. County Department of Public Health's RENEW LA County initiative as part of their sodium awareness program. Don't let the title scare you -- there's no blood or gore in these videos, just a friendly reminder that some foods, such as cottage cheese, pack more salt than many people realize. By the way, we're in the midst of World Salt Awareness Week (March 21-27).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but people 51 and older, African Americans and those with high blood pressure or chronic kidney disease should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.
"We consume so much salt, and most of it comes from processed foods and restaurant fare," says registered dietitian Suzanne Bogert, director of the initiative. "We talk so much about fat and sugar in food, but I feel like salt is the other white substance. And just like fat and sugar make food tastes good, so does salt."
If you need to cut down on salt she suggests doing it gradually. A few tips: Taste your food before you salt it; add non-salty spices such as basil and rosemary; and read food and restaurant labels. Also, avoid obvious sodium-filled foods such as chips, foods that are brined or smoked and most soups. Many supermarkets also offer low-salt versions of foods such as canned vegetables. But Bogert said even rinsing canned veggies before eating them can cut way down on sodium levels.
"It's going to take time," she says, "but you can adjust your palate."