Easy on the Salt

December 30, 2008 7:20:29 PM PST
If your New Year's resolution is to eat right ... You might want to start with cutting back on the salt.A high-sodium diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure and subsequently cause heart attack and stroke. Still Americans consumers far exceed the recommended daily amount of salt.

Many people trying to shake the salt habit look for lower-sodium options. But which can make the cut tastefully? Testers had nearly 100 staffers at consumer reports taste-test less-salty versions of high-sodium foods like pasta sauce, turkey breast, and chicken noodle soup. People were asked if they would eat each food again, not knowing they were testing lower-sodium foods.

Overall, low-sodium pasta sauces were disappointing.

People liked the lower-sodium turkey breast much better. Their favorite? Dietz and Watson Gourmet Lite. A two-ounce serving has just 240 milligrams of sodium and 78 percent of the tasters said they'd eat it again.

After that, staffer preferences started to go down as the sodium content went up. Gayle Williams is the Deputy Health Editor at Consumer Reports.

"Adding sodium is a cheap way to improve the taste and texture of processed and prepared foods," said Williams.

Canned soups in particular pack a lot of sodium. All three of the reduced-sodium chicken noodle soups taste-tested had nearly 500 milligrams in a one-cup serving. And when it came to taste, none stood out.

"You want to be a smart chef. There are plenty of ways to add flavor to foods without adding salt. Herbs, spices, citrus juice, and flavored vinegars are all good choices," said Williams.

You'd be surprised to find how many foods have sodium that you wouldn't even expect. Quaker Oats Quick one-minute oatmeal has no sodium. But Quaker's instant packets have 80 milligrams. So you want to read food labels carefully.

And if you're still craving the real deal, Consumer Reports testers sized up salt blends and substitutes. Diamond Crystal Salt Sense tasted closest to real salt, with roughly 33 percent less sodium.

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