Americans eat too much salt. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eating too much salt increases blood pressure, which is the major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. On average we consume more than double the amount of salt recommended for good health. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500mg sodium per day, and most of us regularly consume 3,500mg.

We're not born craving salt, but as we grow up in our salty world we learn to like it more and more. If you've tasted baby food recently, you probably thought it tasted terrible because it has no added salt. Babies like it just fine because they haven't yet been exposed to salt added to their foods. Some people are genetically determined to prefer salty tastes more than others, but we all can gradually decrease the amount of salt we use and learn to appreciate the natural, unsalted taste of foods.

Try these 5 simple ways to reduce your salt intake:

Replace salt at the table with a salt-free herb seasoning blend. You can make your own, or purchase commercial seasonings. Mrs. Dash is one brand that makes a variety of spice blends that contain no salt.

Rinse canned vegetables, kidney beans, chickpeas and other legumes under cold running water to remove approximately 40 percent of the salt.

Splash vinegar on cooked vegetables or make a salad dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar contain only 2 mg of sodium, compared to 2 teaspoons of most commercial salad dressings with 50-150mg of sodium. One packet of salad dressing from McDonalds contains 390-530mg of sodium.

Add lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, onion and other vegetables to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise or mustard. 1 tablespoon mustard has 300mg sodium and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise contains 75-100mg sodium.

Skip added salt in recipes that contain salty ingredients such as broth, cheese, or soy sauce. Even better, use lower salt ingredients and also skip the added salt.

Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT Is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. She's currently experimenting with different salt-free seasoning blends to find her favorite.