Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure and make your blood pressure treatment less effective.
Sodium is a mineral that is vital for health. Sodium maintains fluid balance, which is why it plays a key role in blood pressure control. There is a direct relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure. Reducing sodium to 2.3 grams (about six grams or one teaspoon of table salt, which is a mixture of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride) daily is linked with decreased blood pressure levels.
A typical US diet is high in sodium. The average American consumes six to 18 grams of table salt daily (about three teaspoons). The body only needs 200 mg daily -- that is 30 times less than what American’s typically consume.
Sodium is found naturally in food, but most sodium we consume has been added for food preservation and preparation. To successfully reduce sodium intake, you need to be aware of the table salt you add to foods and the sodium that is already added to foods. Seventy-five percent of the typical American diet comes from processed foods -- sauces, soups, condiments, canned foods, and prepared mixes. Fast food is another common source of sodium.
To reduce sodium intake, use less salt at the table and when cooking. If you automatically add salt to food before tasting it, this is the first place to start cutting back. You have many options for flavoring your food in place of salt, like salt substitute, herbs, and spices. If you want to try salt substitute, check with your doctor first; salt substitutes contain potassium and needs to be monitored if you have kidney disorders.
Read labels when buying prepared and prepackaged foods. Some words to watch out for include: Salt (sodium chloride), Monosodium glutamate (also called MSG), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), baking powder, and disodium phosphate.
Select canned, frozen, and snack foods without added salt or, better yet, switch from canned vegetables to frozen with no added salt or fresh veggies. Limit salty snacks like chips, pretzels, and salted nuts. Cheese is anther high sodium source.
Make healthy choices when dining out. Here are some tips to enjoy a meal out and maintain a low sodium intake:
- Use pepper for extra seasoning instead of salt.
- Avoid sauces or gravies.
- Order broiled and baked meats.
- Avoid seasoned or blackened menu items.
- Avoid menu items with a lot of cheese.
- Avoid soy sauce and MSG.
Salty flavor is something you have trained your body to prefer. You can retrain your taste buds over time with the ultimate goal of lowering high blood pressure.