Salt was once a luxury item – a rare commodity that people fought and killed for.
Today, people are still dying over salt – but it’s because we’re eating way too much of it. Sodium, so essential to us all in small doses, is now packed into just about everything we eat.
I’ll tell you how to avoid the worst of it in a moment – but first, let’s look at some recent studies.
A new analysis published online by the British Medical Journal estimates that collectively reducing our sodium consumption by about half would reduce the risk of stroke by 23 percent and heart disease by 17 percent.
Another recent study found that if we’d all get our sodium down to under 2300mg per day, 11 million cases of hypertension would disappear in the United States – along with $18 billion a year in medical costs.
Americans typically consume around 4 grams of sodium per day, although many people get more – much more. Ten grams per day is not uncommon – and easy to ingest without ever realizing it.
Salt is not the only cause of high blood pressure, but it’s often a major factor. And up to 62 percent of all strokes and 49 percent of coronary heart disease events have been attributed to high blood pressure.
So it’s simple – cut back on salt, and cut your risk for high blood pressure. If you’ve already tried cutting back on your sodium, you know how hard it can be. It’s downright impossible if you subsist on packaged, frozen and canned foods along with store-bought sauces and mixes.
And forget restaurants – especially fast-food chains. Those places may as well be carved out of pillars of salt.
But cutting back can be pretty easy if you commit to cooking your own meals from fresh ingredients and natural spices. If you can’t live without a saltshaker on the table, try replacing it with a potassium-rich salt substitute – it’s not quite the same thing, but most people get used to it.
In any case, make sure you get enough potassium in your diet: around 4,700mg each day, ideally from food, unless you’re suffering from hyperkalemia – then you’ll want much less. Talk to your doctor to be sure.
Everyone knows that bananas are packed with potassium… but other great sources include potatoes, prunes, almonds, beans, apricots, avocados and spinach.
You might miss out on the convenience of sodium-packed seasonings, mixes and prepared meals… but you’ll more than make up for it with the great taste and health benefits that come from eating fresh food.
Edward Martin is a health journalist who writes about today's most pressing health issues. He chronicles the most cutting-edge alternative methods for beating everything from diabetes to cancer and reports on the latest FDA foul-ups and Big Pharma conspiracies.