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Sodium Reduction Eases Hypertension

June 1, 2010

Really, it’s not just the salt that you add when you cook, or that you sprinkle on while you’re eating, but the sodium that comes in processed foods – even foods that seem healthy. That’s one reason why eating fresh fruits and vegetables are better for you. They’re naturally low in sodium.

Hypertension with High Sodium DietsA high-sodium diet can increase the risk of high blood pressure (which can lead to heart attack, stroke, (and kidney disease) and also increase the risk of asthma, kidney stones, osteoporosis and stomach cancer. A 50 percent reduction in Americans’ dietary sodium intake could save 150,000 lives a year, according to the American Medical Association.

To help control high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, it is recommended that you reduce the amount of salt you eat to 1,500 mg. Healthy adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (the amount in one teaspoon of table salt), according to dietary guidelines. But, the average American consumes 2,900 to 4,300 milligrams a day, according to Health.com.

It may take some time to get used to the taste of less salt, so give yourself permission to do it gradually. The Mayo Clinic says it can takes six weeks or more for your taste buds to get used to less salty foods, but the drop in your blood pressure will be worth the adjustment.

Here a few ways to start making the change:

  • Add spices or flavorings to your food instead of salt. Try salt-free seasoning blends.
  • Don't add salt when cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal.
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some sodium.
  • Buy foods labeled "no salt added," "sodium-free," "low sodium" or "very low sodium."

(Foods marked "reduced sodium" or "light sodium" means that it’s 25 to 50 percent less than the regular version, but still be very high in salt.)