Salt has been the long-time foe of a healthy blood pressure, especially for those who are salt-sensitive. But what about those who seemingly aren't sensitive to salt? Are they free from risk? Not according to a new report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Sodium is an essential mineral that our bodies need to perform a variety of functions. The amount of sodium most adults need is very low (<500 mg) compared with the average intake in the U.S. (>3,200 mg).
And this is where the problem arises. There's a body of research that links excess dietary sodium to a rise in blood pressure. Even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, however, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and brain.
We like salt. Ask any chef or consumer and most will agree that salt helps food taste better. The challenge is not so much with the pinch of salt we add at the table to enhance the flavor of food, but rather the salt that is used as a preservative in packaged foods and overused in restaurant meals.
The good news is that you can protect your heart and blood vessels, your brain and kidneys while still enjoying flavorful foods:
- Cook at home. You can control how much salt you use when you cook and eat meals at home.
- Shop smart. Buy lower sodium version of packaged goods.
- Eat more fresh whole foods. Eating more vegetables, fruits and other nutritious foods prepared from scratch will provide more nutrients, such as potassium which is beneficial to your blood pressure.
- Explore other seasonings. Salt isn't your only option. You can brighten flavors with freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, and create a pop on your palate with balsamic or wine vinegars. Or add some heat with fresh hot peppers or red pepper flakes.
It'll take a little time to adjust to less salt on your palate, but you will. If you are not already watching your salt intake, does this report change your mind? How do you create flavor in your meals with less salt?
April 02, 2015
- Farquhar WB, et al. Dietary sodium and health: More than just blood pressure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2015;65:1042.