According to new research, cutting back on salt as a teenager leads to a healthier heart down the road as an adult.

A press announcement on November 14 revealed that by reducing salt by just three grams per day, teens reduced their risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke in adulthood. The research was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2010, a heart-health conference in Chicago, US, held November 13-17.

American teenagers eat more salt each day - more than 9 grams of sodium - than any other US age group, researchers said in the release. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that the average European diet, both adults and teens, contains 8-11 grams of sodium per day. The American Heart Association and the EFSF recommend no more than 1.5 grams of sodium per day for both age groups.

"The hidden places of salt in our diet are in breads and cereals, canned foods and condiments, and of course fast foods," said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Ph.D., M.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "Most of the salt that we eat is not from our salt shaker, but salt that is already added in food that we eat."

How to cut back on salt? The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts.
  • Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils.
  • Limit salty snacks such as chips and pretzels.
  • Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade dishes.
  • Learn to use spices and herbs to enhance the taste of your food. Most spices naturally contain very small amounts of sodium.
  • Add fresh lemon juice instead of salt to fish and vegetables.
  • Specify how you want your food prepared when dining out. Ask for your dish to be prepared without salt.
  • Don't use the salt shaker. Use the pepper shaker or mill.

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