Shake off the salt habit and save your life

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.

You know to take it easy on the salt. It's why you skip chips, say bye to fries and forsake the bacon, right? For lunch, you have lean turkey slices (1,040 mg) on 100 percent whole-wheat bread (440 mg), a dill pickle spear (385 mg) and a glass of skim milk (190 mg). But you still end up with almost 2,100 mg of sodium in one meal! That road to high blood pressure is paved with good intentions and salt! Time to throw it in reverse.

According to the American Heart Association, your daily sodium dose should be 1,500 mg (about to teaspoon of regular table salt). Most North Americans take in around 3,600 mg. About 75 percent is from restaurant and processed foods (that turkey and bread in your lunch are examples); 12 percent is naturally found in food; and another 11 percent is added while cooking and eating at home. High-salt diets are associated with high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and stomach cancer. And a new study shows that if everyone cut their salt intake by 40 percent (it would still be sky-high at 2,200 mg), that alone could save a half a million lives in the next 10 years! But here's how to knock it down to 1,500 mg per day:

Skip fast and processed foods; opt for salads with low-sodium dressings.

Season with spices instead of salt (and fat).

Read every label at the grocery store: Some brands of ketchup, for example, may be packed with salt, and that's true for other condiments, cereals and dairy products. Be a smart salt consumer.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit

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