To improve your blood pressure reading, eating less sodium is on top of the list. In my previous blog I mentioned that The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, referred to as DASH, encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Sodium is a major component of table salt. Our craving for salt is actually learned, and as such, can be unlearned. If we cut back on our salt intake, the desire for salt will gradually decrease. The American Heart Association recommends to limit your intake to 1500 mg daily. This can be a real challenge because food manufacturers add so much sodium to processed foods. We need some sodium, but it is present in our foods as they are picked from the field because it is in the soil. Most foods have some sodium even before they are processed, and that is OK, since it is enough to supply what we need but not enough to cause health problems. It is the canned and processed foods that are the problem. If we cut out table salt, we only reduce our sodium intake by about 15%. Your best bet is to find items which state, “No Added Salt” on the label. You can also read the nutrition facts label.
The % Daily Value section on the food label tells you the percent of each nutrient in a single serving, in terms of the daily recommended amount. As a guide, if you want to consume less of a nutrient (such as saturated fat, cholesterol or sodium), choose foods with a lower % Daily Value of 5 percent or less. If you want to consume more of a nutrient (such as fiber), seek foods with a higher % Daily Value of 20 percent or more.
The typical sodium intake in our society is around 4000 – 5000mg/day. As previously stated, the American Heart Association recommends cutting back to 1500mg to be heart healthy. There are several steps you can take to reach that level. Buy varieties of food with no added salt. Rinse regular canned foods under running water to help reduce salt. Skip items with added sauces. Avoid food items that have been cured, smoked, processed, brined, or pickled since all have been prepared in salt. For luncheon meats its better to cook fresh meat and slice up versus deli meats. Cheese is high in salt so use sparingly. Be aware of products with the word sodium or salt in it such as monosodium glutamate, celery salt, onion salt, and garlic salt. Use powders instead such as garlic powder. There are no limits on herbs and spices. There are also seasoning mixes with no salt you can try, like Mrs. Dash, which comes in various flavors.
So where is your level of sodium intake? See if you can change your craving for salt by following the above recommendations for a month. You may surprise yourself and suddenly decide salty chips are toooo salty and unappealing.
Signature by Joanne Slyter, registered dietitian who focuses her practice on nutrition consulting and coaching