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Hold the salt – tips for following a low-sodium diet

The average person consumes about 6 grams of salt daily, according to King’s Daughters Medical Center’s (KDMC) dietitian Amy McFann. Many are under doctor’s orders to follow a low-sodium diet, which means reducing salt consumption to 2-4 grams per day.

McFann discussed tips for cooking flavorful, delectable meals at a recent KDMC Heart Failure Support Group meeting. Heart healthy cooking is all about making educated food choices, McFann said.

This requires taking your salt consumption to heart—literally. High-sodium diets are associated with fluid buildup, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, she said.

Shop smart

It’s hard to keep track of exactly how much sodium you are consuming when you eat out, McFann said. Cooking at home allows you to control what you eat.

She blames processed foods for the excess salt in our diets and she recommends buying foods found in their natural state. “Start by shopping the outside of the grocery store,” McFann said. Fruits and vegetables, meats and dairy products can be found along the perimeter of most grocery stores. The middle is full of processed foods, which we all need far less of in our diets.

Be a wise shopper, and always take time to read the nutrition labels and note serving size, McFann said. Marketing gimmicks help draw consumers to a product. Just because an item says “low-sodium” doesn’t mean it is appropriate for a low-sodium diet, McFann said, adding, while a product may contain less sodium than it did before, it may still contain way too much salt for your diet.

Spice it up

Certain spices help bring out the flavor of particular meats and/or vegetables, providing foods with richer, bolder tastes. For example, McFann recommends garlic, pepper or nutmeg for beef, while for vegetables she suggests spicing them up with lemon, dill or onion.

Add spices no more than 15 minutes before serving. “If you put the spices in too early, they lose flavor,” McFann notes. Also, combining spices with a healthy oil (such as olive or canola oil), can really help bring out flavor during cooking.

Lightly salting food while cooking is still acceptable, but McFann recommends getting in the habit of never salting food once it’s on the table.

Future meetings

The Heart Failure Support Group is free and open to anyone with heart failure, caregivers and interested persons. Physician referral is not required, although RSVPs are requested and may be made by calling (606) 408-6000 or (606) 408-6462. The group meets in the lower level conference room 4 at King's Daughters Office Park, 835 Central Ave., Ashland.

Heart Failure Medications will be the topic of the next meeting, which will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 27.

Heart failure is a serious condition affecting more than 5 million Americans. While there is no known cure for the disease, the condition can be managed through medication, lifestyle changes, education and support.

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