February is American Heart Month, so why not start taking better care of yours now? First choose foods with nutrition labels containing a Percent Daily Value for sodium of 5 percent or less, then follow these 9 simple tips from the No. 1 rated The DASH* Diet for Hypertension: Lower Your Blood Pressure in 14 Days without Drugs, by Thomas Moore, M.D.
• Look for products that say “sodium free,” “very low sodium,” “low sodium,” “light in sodium,” “reduced or less sodium,” or “unsalted.” Because the government has implemented strict rules to govern such claims, you can be assured these are not empty promises.
• Buy fresh or plain frozen vegetables. Canned vegetables are okay if labeled “no salt added.” Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat rather than canned or processed versions.
• Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table instead of salt.
• Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
• Select low-salt versions of canned meats such as tuna.
• Remove the saltshaker from the dining table.
• Choose “convenience” foods that are low in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes like pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings, all of which often have a lot of sodium.
• When available, buy low- or reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions of such foods as:
— canned soup, dried soup mixes, bouillon
— canned vegetables and vegetable juices
— cheeses, lower in fat
— condiments such as ketchup and soy sauce
— crackers and baked goods
— processed lean meats
— snack foods, such as chips, pretzels, and nuts
• Learn ways to cook that keep down the sodium in your diet.