Low Salt Diet for Hypertension & Heart Health

How Much Salt / Sodium is Too Much; 12 Practical Tips to Minimize Intake of Excess Sodium / Salt

Low salt diet for hypertnesion is truly one of the high priority and doable dietary habit. It plays a role in prevention and management high blood pressure and even plaques (deposits in blodd vessels - Atherosclerosis). 

Excess of Sodium or Salt has been one of most accused culprits for cardiovascular disorders like hypertension, atherosclerosis or plaques or simply blockages, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and chronic kidney failure.

Difference between Sodium & Table Salt:

In normal language, Sodium and Salt are interchangeably used. Sodium is one of the element and it required by body. Salt is a chemical and one of the most common source of Sodium in diet.

However, there many other sources of Sodium in our diet. And many times there are not very evident. We need to know about these as well.

For example, MSG is one of the common additive in food that provides Sodium.

How Much Sodium or Salt is Too Much & Acceptable Intake?

Sodium is very important for health and we need only 500 mg of Sodium in a day to survive.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

On an average, people consume several times more than required. For example, average American consume Sodium nearly 3500 mg or 7 times more than minimum required daily.

Do We Need Sodium Daily for Health and Wellbeing?

The main role of Sodium for health and life is...

  1. Regulating blood volume (blood and blood vessels)
  2. Transmitting nerve impulses (entire nervous system)
  3. Contract muscle fibers (all muscles)
  4. And several others

How Eating More Sodium or Salt Might be Damaging?

  1. More Sodium >>> Water Retention >>> Increase in Blood Volume >>> Rise in Blood Pressure
  2. High Sodium in Blood >>> Vasoconstriction >>> Again Increases Blood Pressure
  3. High Blood Pressure for Prolonged Time >> Thickened Wall of Heart Chambers >>> Heart Failure Risk
  4. Excess Sodium >>> Damages the Inner Lining of Blood Vessels even if Blood Pressure is Normal >>> Development of Plaques or Blockage
  5. Additional disturbance in Immune System by affecting hormones and inflammatory mechanism, fat metabolism
  6. Damage to Kidney and Brain as well in Long Term, independent of high blood pressure

Researches about Association of Low Sodium Intake and Cardiovascular Health:

Researchers found that the diet (low Sodium) progressively lowered biomarkers for heart injury and heart strain over the course of the three-month study.

Another study, which followed almost 177,000 people for nearly 12 years, found that people who reported that they rarely or never added salt to their food had a lower risk of heart disease than those who usually salted their food.

Common Dietary Source with High Sodium / Salt:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40% of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from the following foods:

  • Deli meat sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Burritos and tacos
  • Soups
  • Savory Snacks (e.g. chips, crackers, popcorn)
  • Poultry
  • Pasta mixed dishes
  • Burgers
  • Egg dishes and omelets

Food Additives Contributing to Sodium Load:

Common food additives contain and contribute toward Daily Sodium Intake. That is why it is a healthy habit to see the label for Nutritional Profile of packaged foods that we frequently enjoy.

  1. Monosodium glutamate (MSG),
  2. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda),
  3. Sodium nitrite
  4. Sodium benzoate

Foods Not Tasting Salty, But Containing High Sodium:

Common foods like pickles do taste ‘Salty’ and give a hint of high salt presence. But there are many foods that don’t apparently taste salty and do contain fair amount of Salt or Sodium. Quite often, sugar and other items are added to mask the ‘salty’ taste of these foods.

  1. Breakfast Cereals, especially packaged ones
  2. Pastries
  3. Commercial Bread
  4. Some natural vegetables to contain High Sodium.

How to Read Labels of Packaged Food and What It Does Mean:

Label mentions

what it does mean...

Salt / Sodium Free

Contains Less than 5 mg Sodium per Serving

Very Low Sodium / Salt

Has Less than 35 mg of Sodium per Serving

Low Sodium / Salt

140 mg or Less Sodium per Serving

Reduced Sodium / Salt

25% or More Less Sodium than Its Regular variety

Lightly Salted / Light in Sodium

50% Less Sodium than Its Regular variety

No Salt Added / Unsalted

No Additional Salt is added during Processing. Do check whether these foods do naturally contain Sodium / Salt. Might naturally contain Sodium / Salt.

Common Facts about Salt / Sodium Intake:

Fact 1: Most dietary sodium (over 70%) comes from eating packaged and prepared foods - not from table salt added to food when cooking or eating.

Fact 2: 5% DV or less of sodium per serving is considered low, and 20% DV or more of sodium per serving is considered high.

Fact 3: High sodium consumption (>2 grams/day, equivalent to 5 g salt/day) and insufficient potassium intake (less than 3.5 grams/day) contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Fact 4: An estimated 2.5 million deaths could be prevented each year if global salt consumption were reduced to the recommended level.

Low Salt Diet for Hypertension

Practical Tips to Reduce Sodium / Salt Consumption & Avoid Excess Salt Intake:

  1. Develop the habit of reading the Nutrition Facts of Labels
  2. Develop the habit of buying fresh foods - meat, poultry and seafood. Avoid packaged, processed foods. See if you there is salt or saline water added to preserve it.
  3. Prepare your own food when you can
  4. Prefer fresh or frozen vegetablles. Avoid seasoned or canned vegetables and look for their Sodium content.
  5. Add flavor without adding sodium: Gradually reduce the amount of Salt added to food during cooking, baking or while eating
  6. While dining out, opt for low sodium Choices. Also request to put sauces and dressings to the side of plate so that you can use less of these.
  7. Rinse sodium-containing canned foods, such as beans, tuna, and vegetables for 1-2 minutes in running water.
  8. Preer Low Salt or Unsalted snacks
  9. Reduce the use of Mixed Condiments, Bottles dressings
  10. When you don’t have other options, reduce the portion size and frequency of High Sodium / Salt foods.
  11. Limit intake of packaged foods such as sauces, instant foods, ready made foods

Take Home Points:

  1. Look for your Dietary Habits and Foods commonly ate in Your Culture / Geography.
  2. Reduce or Limit the intake of Sodium 1500 to 2300 mg per day.
  3. 100 gm Salt contains 38.7 gm of Sodium. Salt has only 38.7% of Sodium.
  4. 1/2 to 1 (3 to 6 gm Daily) teaspoonful Salt is the daily range.
  5. Remember that most processed and packaged foods have Sodium or Salt. Do check the Label. Avoid their use or minimize these to 1-3 times per week.
  6. If you have enjoyed excess of Salt, bring it down gradually over 6-8 weeks.

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