Study confirms reducing salt consumption is key to hypertension management
05/10/2022 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
Study confirms reducing salt consumption is key to hypertension management

At least 150 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure (hypertension). The condition puts people at risk of various health problems, such as heart attack and stroke.

Salt consumption is often considered to contribute to high blood pressure by stimulating thirst, resulting in greater fluid intake. Hence, reducing salt intake is widely considered to be an important strategy for lowering blood pressure.

Several studies present conflicting findings. One study suggests that higher sodium intake doesn’t stimulate thirst and fluid intake but instead promotes weight loss by changing your body’s total energy needs.

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A study led by Dr. Stephen Juraschek, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), attempted to clarify the conflicting data. The results were published in the journal Hypertension.

In the BIDMC study, Juraschek and his colleagues found that reducing sodium intake in adults with elevated blood pressure or hypertension decreased thirst, urine volume (considered a marker of fluid intake) and blood pressure. The changes didn’t affect metabolic energy needs.

These results support the traditional notion that decreasing sodium intake is important for hypertension management.

 

“Public health recommendations aimed at lowering population-wide sodium intake for blood pressure should continue without fear of contributing to weight gain,” advised Juraschek.

Juraschek and his team said that they will continue to study the effects of sodium over a longer duration in adults with diabetes. Their aim is to examine the effects of fluid intake on clinical outcomes.

How to effectively reduce your sodium intake

For many people, salty snacks like potato chips and fast food are a guilty pleasure. However, the more you eat salty foods, the more you put your heart health and overall well-being at risk.

If you are worried about your heart health and want to reduce your salt intake, the tips below can help:

When cooking at home:

  • Use alternatives like citrus juice, garlic, salt-free seasonings or spices to reduce the amount of salt you use.
  • Prepare foods like beans, pasta, rice and meats from their most basic forms, meaning dry and fresh, when possible.
  • Eat more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit your use of mixes, sauces and “instant” products such a flavored rice and ready-made pasta.

When buying groceries: 

  • Always read food labels and compare the amount of sodium in different products. Opt for items with the lowest amount of sodium.
  • When buying fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, look for products without added salt or sauce.
  • Buy packaged foods labeled “low sodium,” “reduced sodium” or “no salt added” when possible.
  • When buying prepared meals, choose products with less than 600 milligrams (mg) of sodium per meal. This is the upper limit set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a meal or main dish to be labeled “healthy.”
  • When buying food, check the amount of sodium per serving. Always check the number of servings per container.
  • Instead of cured, salted, smoked or other processed meats, look for fresh poultry, fish, pork and lean meat. When buying fresh items, make sure no saline or salt solution has been added.
  • Check with your grocer if they have a low-sodium shopping list available.
  • Ask to speak to the registered dietitian at your local grocery store to learn more about buying low-sodium products. If your grocer doesn’t have a registered dietitian, consult your doctor for a referral. A registered dietitian can help guide you when it comes to reducing your family’s sodium intake and managing blood pressure.

When dining out:

  • Split a meal with a friend or family member.
  • Keep takeout and fast food to an occasional treat. This also helps save a bit of money, especially if you cook more healthy meals at home.
  • Before you order at a restaurant, ask for nutrition information. Ask for a lower sodium meal.
  • When ordering food, politely ask that no salt be added to your meal.
  • When ordering vegetables, ask for no salt added or get fruit as a side item.

Tired of bland meals? Try these flavorful salt alternatives

Reducing your salt intake shouldn’t make you feel deprived and resigned to eating countless bland meals.

With some research and a bit of experimentation in the kitchen, you can eventually find new, fresh ingredients that are nutritious and also full of natural flavor, such as:

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar has a sharp, tart flavor with a hint of sweetness. Use this ingredient to bring out a food’s natural flavors while also minimizing the need for salt.

Balsamic vinegar is best for salad dressings, soups, stews and marinades for meat and fish. Reduce balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over low heat to produce an even more flavorful syrup that you can drizzle over fresh tomatoes or roasted vegetables.

Dill

Dill tastes like a savory combination of celery and fennel, making it a great alternative to salt.

Pair dill with dishes that use cucumbers, potatoes and fish. Use dill as the main seasoning in potato salad, sprinkle dill on top of salmon, or add it to lemon or lime juice for fish dishes.

Garlic

Garlic is a popular spice loved for its ability to give any savory dish a flavor boost without increasing sodium content.

Try cutting back on salt and doubling the amount of garlic in recipes for tomato sauces and marinades. Garlic is also great for soups and stir-fries.

Garlic is an allium vegetable with incredible health benefits. According to research, garlic compounds may help boost immunity, lower blood pressure and promote brain health.

Ground black pepper

Salt and pepper are a well-loved culinary duo, but if you want to reduce your salt intake, replace it with pepper.

Black pepper works great in pastas, roasts, soups and other savory dishes. Studies also suggest that black pepper may help decrease inflammation often associated with chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

Another option is to try white pepper or peppercorn mixtures and pepper alternatives like cayenne peppers, chili peppers and jalapenos.

Lemon juice or zest

Citrus, especially lemon juice and zest, is a great alternative to salt for certain recipes.

Even though lemon juice is a source of acid, it acts similarly to salt by bringing out the flavors of a dish.

On the other hand, lemon zest gives your dish a more potent citrus flavor. If you don’t have lemons, use either the juice and zest of limes and oranges for similar culinary effects.

Use citrus juice or zest when cooking veggies or making salad dressings and marinades for meat and fish.

Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that you can buy in flake or powder form. It has a delicious cheesy, savory flavor and is perfect for popcorn, pastas and grains.

Even though nutritional yeast is cheesy, it’s a dairy-free ingredient.

Replace salt with nutritional yeast and enjoy it’s many health benefits. Nutritional yeast contains beta glucan fiber that may help reduce your cholesterol, potentially lowering your risk of heart disease.

Rosemary

Rosemary is commonly used in dipping oils. When cooking at home, add fresh or dried rosemary to roasts, soups, stews or breads, dressings, roasted vegetables and sauces.

If you have hypertension, boost your heart health by making dietary changes and replacing salt with flavorful herbs and spices.

Sources:

ScienceDaily.com

IntegrativePractitioner.com

CDC.gov

Healthline.com

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