About 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure. A good step to take for improving or preventing high blood pressure is to cut back on eating salt — especially from the biggest culprit: processed foods. These days many food manufacturer’s offer “low sodium” or “no salt added” options, but labels can be confusing. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
There are some foods that are just high in sodium, period. Bacon, bouillon cubes, mustard, olives, pickles, sausages and smoked fish are just a few of the more popular ones. Salt is used as a flavor enhancer and as a preservative to lengthen the food’s shelf life and decrease bacterial growth. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should only get 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day maximum — that’s about as much as 1 teaspoon of table salt. For folks diagnosed with high blood pressure, the daily sodium limit goes down 1,500 milligrams (around two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt). That’s not a lot!
Reading the Nutrition Facts
Reading the label can get tricky. Don’t fall for the oldest trick in the book (or on the package in this case). If an item says “reduced sodium” (a.k.a. “lower sodium”), it means that the item contains at least 25% less sodium than a “regular” version, but it could still have some heavy doses of salt in it. It’s best to read the Nutrition Facts panel and look at the total milligrams. A food or drink typically is “low sodium” if it contains 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving — that’s what you should be looking for.
Breads, Crackers, Hot and Cold Cereals
Check the labels on these types of products to make sure they meet the “low sodium” criteria (remember: 140 milligrams or less). Here are a few brand names that make the cut, although there are many more out there:
- Pepperidge Farm Stoneground 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Vermont Bread Company Organic Multigrain Bread
- Kashi’s TLC Stoneground 7 Grain Crackers
- Ryvita Crispbreads
- Old Fashioned Quaker Oats
- Fiber One cereal
- Post Shredded Wheat
- Kashi Go Lean cereal
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