Cut Salt Intake to Reduce High Blood Pressure - Hidden Sources of Sodium in Diet

By Christian Goodman

Your doctor has probably told you that you need to cut back on salt If you have high blood pressure. Your loved ones may even hide the salt shaker from you at dinner time! But not using the salt shaker won't do any good if you continue to eat a lot of processed food, or if you frequently eat out in restaurants. In fact, processed food accounts for more than 70 percent of the sodium in the typical American diet.

Salt Affecting Your Blood Pressure

Your body must maintain homeostasis - balance. When too much salt is eaten, the kidneys cannot process all of it, and the excess salt (sodium) ends up in the bloodstream. To balance out the salt, your body allows more water to enter your bloodstream. It is this extra water that increases your blood pressure (by adding to the volume of your blood).

Hidden Sodium Sources in Your Diet

A study in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion reports that 11.1 million fewer cases of high blood pressure would be eliminated each year if Americans followed recommended levels of salt intake. The maximum daily sodium recommendation is 2,300 milligrams. However, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. If people could cut their sodium intake to recommended levels, health care costs would be reduced by as much as $18 billion.

Sodium is rampant in virtually all processed foods. Some foods with the greatest sodium contents include soup, condiments, pickles, bacon, salsa, cheese, and cold cuts. Nearly all canned and processed foods have high sodium contents. Be sure to read labels if you're trying to reduce on salt. Even some "low sodium" foods have tremendous levels of sodium. Never trust marketing gimmicks on labels; always look at the facts.

Similarly, restaurant meals can have very high levels of salt. Salt adds flavor and helps to preserve certain foods. Processed foods are used by most restaurants, and even when fresh ingredients are used they may add unnecessary amounts of salt to dishes. When you eat out, ask your server about low-sodium options. If your server seems puzzled by the question, ask to speak to the manager.

The foremost way to avert too much salt is to learn how to prepare meals for yourself and avoid processed foods. Try to eat mostly whole foods - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fresh meat.

Note that salt is not inherently unhealthy. Your body requires about 500 milligrams of salt each day to sustain healthy functioning - but it's easy to get this by eating whole foods. Most people eat 10 times this! If you suffer from high blood pressure, you should try to limit your salt intake to about 1500 milligrams a day.

If you have elevated blood pressure, it's equally important to lower your stress levels and exercise regularly. See these high blood pressure exercises to learn about simple exercises that will keep you in shape, lower stress levels, and reduce your blood pressure naturally. Be sure to talk to you doctor before starting any new exercise program - but don't let this serve as an excuse to avoid exercise. If you make healthy choices, you can modify your blood pressure naturally.

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