It’s time for dinner. You’ve taken all of the necessary steps to prepare a healthy meal: a piece of chicken breast, some potatoes, rice and broccoli, but something is missing. You’re already on the highway to healthiness, so what’s it going to hurt to throw a little salt on your food to add flavor?
It depends on who you ask — especially if you have high blood pressure.
For years we’ve been told high-sodium diets can do bad things to our bodies, like increase our blood pressure; the latest studies may suggest otherwise.
So let’s find out why researchers may be “flipping the script” on the relationship between salt and its effect on blood pressure.
How Much is Too Much?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults. Yet many Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams per day.
Fast food is part of the reason, but processed foods are also big contributors to our daily sodium intake. Processed foods are popular because they’re handy and easy to make, but they’re also typically high in sodium. We’re talking about things like:
- Canned foods
- Canned soups
- Frozen dinners
- Cold cuts
Yes, processed foods can make for a quick lunch or dinner, but one frozen black bean burger can have nearly half the ideal limit of sodium the AHA recommends.
Do High-Sodium Diets Affect Blood Pressure?
Researchers have always thought consuming too much salt makes it harder for your kidneys to remove fluid, which in turn, causes the heart to work harder and increases blood pressure.
But a recent study from Boston University found no link between lower sodium diets and lower blood pressure. The team found people who consumed under 2,500 milligrams of sodium each day had higher blood pressure than those who consumed higher quantities of sodium. Another study in “The Lancet” had similar results. Despite the findings, researchers are not abandoning their belief that high-salt diets can raise blood pressure in some people. The findings do add to the growing list of evidence that current recommendations for sodium intake may be misguided. In other words: the jury is still out.
So What Should We Do?
Eating too much of anything is never good, so sodium should be consumed in moderation. If you have high blood pressure and are worried about how much salt you’re consuming, stick to the American Heart Association’s recommended guidelines until more definitive studies are done.
There are also plenty of alternatives you can try to shake your salt habit. They will add flavor and a healthy amount of sodium to your food, without adding salt. Spice blends, salt-free seasonings, sauces, and herbs will all do the trick.
There’s no question our bodies need sodium to function properly. The trick is determining how much is too much. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about serving sizes and which alternatives might be best for you to try.
For more information on lowering your risk download our blood sugar guide.