Less Sodium for Better Blood Pressure
Too much salt in your diet can cause you to retain more fluid, which can lead to a range of serious health complications.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re consuming way too much salt. A recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 89 percent of adults in the U.S. consume more than the recommended amounts of sodium each day. In addition, the new dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services recommend limiting sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day. Individuals with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular risk factors should consider lowering their intake even further.
Too much sodium in your diet can cause you to retain more fluid. Higher fluid volume can translate into higher blood pressure.
“Stop using the salt shaker,” says dietitian Katherine Patton, RD, LD, with the Preventive Cardiology Nutrition Team at Cleveland Clinic. “Instead, replace it with pepper, herbs, and spices.” Patton also recommends eating out less often, because restaurant food tends to be higher in sodium than food you might cook at home.
And when you’re shopping, Patton says to avoid or at least consume in moderation the foods listed among the American Heart Association’s “Salty Six.” They include bread, deli meats, pizza, sandwiches, canned soup, and chicken that is prepared in a high-sodium solution.
“In general, avoid instant, prepackaged, pre-cooked, and frozen foods,” Patton says. “Replace them with whole foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and starches.”
She adds that individuals who follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, for example, may see lower blood pressure within two weeks of starting the diet.
Understand “Low-Sodium” Foods
When you see “low-sodium” on a label of packaged food, be sure to read the entire nutrition label. In some cases, low-sodium foods may be higher in fat and calories than their counterparts that have the usual amounts of sodium. But in general, low-sodium foods, including soups and snacks, may be good options for you. You can always add healthier spices at home.
“A food can be labeled ‘low sodium’ if it has less than 140 mg of sodium per serving,” Patton says. “Therefore, these are good alternatives to original versions.”