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You need a certain amount of sodium in your diet. This essential mineral helps keep your body’s fluid levels in balance and also plays a key role in nerve and muscle function. But, as with most everything else, moderation is key. Too much salt can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer and other health conditions.

How much salt is too much?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting your daily sodium intake 2,300 milligrams, which is a little less than one teaspoon. Many people consume much more than that; in fact, studies show that the average American takes in approximately 3,400 milligrams of salt each day.

How you can reduce your salt intake?

Because sodium is hidden in many foods, it can be challenging to track exactly how much salt you’re consuming. Here are five easy ways to cut sodium from your diet:

  1. Enjoy home-cooked meals – When you prepare your own food, you have control over the amount of sodium that goes into it. Rather than using salt and salt-containing spice blends to add flavor, use onions, garlic, herbs and spices instead.
  2. Buy fresh foods – When possible, avoid processed, prepackaged and prepared foods, all of which typically contain significant amounts of sodium.
  3. Read the nutrition information on package labels – If you can’t buy fresh, look for options that are marked “no salt added,” “unsalted,” “sodium free” or “low in sodium.”
  4. Become familiar with the terminology – Sodium is sometimes referred to as salt, baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate (MSG) or disodium phosphate.
  5. Avoid cured foods – Bacon, hot dogs and lunch meats are very high in sodium because sodium nitrate is used to extend their shelf life.

Reducing your salt intake may seem difficult at first. But, by following these relatively simple tips, you can make a real difference in both your heart health and your cancer risk.

Nutrition during cancer treatment

Proper nutrition is especially important during cancer treatment. A balanced diet can promote healing and keep the body strong during chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as before and after surgery. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our registered dietitians can provide evidence-based guidance regarding nutrition and cancer risk.

If you’d like to meet with a dietitian at Moffitt, you can request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.