As you are considering your New Year’s resolutions, maybe decreasing your salt intake should be at the top of your list. The New York Times posted an article entitled “Sodium-Saturated Diet Is a Threat for All”, in which it detailed the results of new research on the relationship between salt, blood pressure and heart disease.
There were two eye opening discoveries that made us look at the back of every package of every product in our cabinets.
“The researchers found that while a diet high in sodium – salt is the main source – increases your risk (for death from heart disease), even more important is the ratio of sodium (harmful) to potassium (protective) in one’s diet.” High levels of sodium in the diet raise blood pressure and the risk of chronic hypertension by stiffening arteries and blocking nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries; while potassium activates nitric oxide and reduces pressure in the arteries, lowering the risk of hypertension.
Did you know the body only requires approximately 220 milligrams a day but the average American consumes more than 3,400 milligrams daily? That was a wake-up call and probably one of the most shocking variances between dietary need versus dietary intake seen. “The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a maximum of 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon of salt) for people over age 2, but only 1,500 milligrams for the 70 percent of adults at high risk of sodium-induced illness: people older than 50, all African-Americans, and everyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.”
This sounds as if this study reaches beyond a person’s weight and exercise regimen, so the first question we asked was “What can we do?” Dr. Kuklina and Dr. Farley provide their recommendations.
- Eating fewer processed foods, especially processed meats, and more fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products that are low in sodium, like yogurt and milk.
- Increase your potassium intake not by taking supplements, but by eating more cantaloupe, bananas, oranges, grapes, grapefruit, blackberries, yogurt, dried beans, leafy greens, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- When ordering in a restaurant, ask that your food be prepared without added salt and your vegetables steamed.
- When ordering salads at restaurants, always request that salad dressings and sauces be served on the side, enabling you to use far less than the chef might.
- Consider splitting an (restaurant) order between two people, which would cut the salt intake in half. And if a dish arrives that is too salty, send it back to the kitchen.
- Avoid fast-food restaurants, where a single meal can contain a day’s worth of sodium.
- Read labels and compare products, then choose those with lower sodium.
- Dr. Farley also suggested asking food companies to use less salt in your favorite products and supporting the government’s efforts to reduce sodium consumption by commenting on a proposal published on Sept. 15 in the Federal Register (Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0400 and Docket No. FSIS-2011-0014). The easiest way to comment is through the American Heart Association’s Web site: www.heart.org/sodium, then click on “Send your comment letter today.”
Information is power and knowing is half the battle. We have several healthy, vegan and vegetarian recipes to help you along the path. Have a Happy Healthy New Year.