By now you've heard that salt (or sodium) is linked to increasing blood pressure and risk of heart disease. It does this because salt attracts the water in your blood vessels, causing more water to be released, thus increasing the total amount of fluid in the vessels, and therefore blood pressure.
Salt does have a variety of purposes in foods, including flavor enhancing and preservation. It is essential to the body, although in very small amounts. The body needs about 200 mg of sodium a day for proper function, and the American Heart Association recommends an intake of 1,500 mg or less each day. Studies show that a typical American consumes over double that amount everyday!
Foods that are typically high-sodium include most canned products, soups, condiments, and pre-prepared foods. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label and try to choose foods that say "unsalted" or "no added salt". If possible, choose fresh or frozen foods with no added salt. Instead of using the salt shaker to flavor your meals, try adding spices, herbs or just black pepper. Finally, remember that it will take some time for your tastebuds to adapt to reduced sodium in the diet, but you will begin to appreciate the true tastes of your food!