Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure as well as your risk of stroke. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to help you control your intake. 

The most effective and simple strategy is to cook food at home as often as possible. If you eat out frequently, you can bet that you are ingesting more sodium than you should. When cooking at home, include fresh vegetables, fruits, fresh meat, poultry, fish, and if grains are in your dietary portrait, include a conservative amount.

If a recipe calls for salt, use it sparingly or better yet, skip it altogether. If you are not into the natural flavor of foods, maximize flavor with spices and other flavor-enhancers such as flavored olive oil or natural herbs instead. If you need extra flavor, using low-sodium and no-salt marinades is a smart way to infuse meats and fish with flavor without loading up on salt. Rinse and drain any canned foods to wash away some of the salty components in the packing juices. When you cook starches and grains, do not salt the water. 

Another way to keep your sodium intake in check is to shop wisely. When in the market, search out sodium-free, low-sodium or no-salt convenience foods. Reading the Nutrition Facts Panel is an easy way to gauge the amount of sodium in the food you are buying. Remember, when you read the label, the most important thing is to consider is the serving size. A label on a can may say 400mg sodium, but the serving size may be 5 servings. That means the whole can actually has 2,000 mg of sodium. 

According to the FDA, if a food item contains more than 20 percent daily value (DV) of a nutrient, then a serving of that food is considered to contain a high amount of that nutrient. Five percent DV is considered low. For sodium, 20 percent DV equals 460 mg of sodium, while 5 percent DV is 115 mg.

A third point to keep in mind regarding sodium intake is to watch out for "low-fat" foods. Lower-fat or fat-free products that are purchased are oftentimes higher in sodium than their full-fat counterparts. When fat, a major flavor-enhancer, is removed, other ingredients such as sodium are often added to compensate. Be aware of this.

You want another way to help yourself? Beware of hidden ingredients. Deli meats, jarred condiments, cake mixes, flavored milks, and snack foods all contain ingredients that add sodium. While some of these foods (and many more) may not taste salty, there are many forms sodium can take which are often found within the nutritional profile of these foods. 

They are: sodium benzoate (preservative), sodium bicarbonate (texture enhancer), sodium citrate (pH influencer), sodium hydroxide (pH influencer), sodium alginate (thickener), disodium inosinate (flavor enhancer), and disodium guanylate (flavor enhancer). 

To conclude, here is an example to chew on showing how the same legume can have vastly different sodium content depending on how it is packaged and prepared. 

1- (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained = 815 mg sodium
1- can organic black beans, rinsed and drained = 420 mg sodium
1- can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained = 90 mg

By Josh Renkens