Should You Shake Your Salt Habit?
The body needs sodium. It helps regulate blood pressure and blood volume.
It's also essential for muscle and nerve functions. The problem? If you consume too much, it can raise blood pressure, which increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. And it's easy to consume too much. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. And that's just the sodium that you can visibly measure. Sodium is hidden in processed and prepared foods.
However, recent studies are questioning the benefits of reducing salt. British researchers found that moderate reductions of salt in the diet lowered blood pressure, but not the risk of heart disease or death. And study findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that Europeans who consumed the most salt were less likely to die of heart disease than those who consumed the least.
Yes, the science is confusing. So what do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have to say about salt? According to a 2010 report, 9 in 10 Americans consume too much.
The average American consumes 3,300 mg of sodium per day—much more than the CDC's recommendation of 2,300 mg per day (about the amount of a teaspoon of salt). What's more, the CDC recommends the following people to limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day:
- People 51 years of age or older
- People with hypertension
- Diabetes or with chronic kidney disease
According to the CDC, other factors may affect high blood pressure. They include:
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Being overweight
- Being physically inactive
- Inadequate intake of potassium, fruits, and vegetables
- Excessive alcohol consumption
If you have high blood pressure, heart disease, cirrhosis, or kidney disease, your doctor will probably prescribe a low-sodium diet.
Easy Ways to Reduce Salt Intake
Cook your own food. According to the CDC, most of the sodium we consume is from packaged or restaurant food—compared to just 5 percent from home-cooked meals. If possible, opt to make your own meals, and even then, rely less on packaged foods and more on whole foods.
Read labels carefully. The amount of sodium varies widely depending on the brand you buy. For instance, one slice of white bread may contain anywhere from 80-230 mg of sodium. Also, be sure to check serving sizes. You may be consuming more than you think.
Spice up your dishes. Studies have shown that people may not notice a slight reduction in salt/sodium in their dishes. If you find that's not the case, use a variety of spices to thrill your taste buds so you won't miss the flavor that excess salt provides.
Consume potassium-rich foods. Fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium such as potatoes, beans, bananas, and yogurt will help the body regulate excess salt intake.
Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 2012.
Sodium and Food Sources. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 2012.
Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Web. April 2010.
Press Release. Nine in 10 U.S. Adults Get Too Much Sodium Every Day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. 2012.
Moderate Salt Reduction Reduces Blood Pressure But Not Risk of Dying. Medical News Today. Web. 2011.
Eating Less Salt Doesn't Cut Heart Risks: Study. Reuters Health. Web. 2011
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.