How can we lower our salt intake without nixing the salt shaker? Seems like a trick question. However, researchers in Australia believe that the most effective way for people to lower their salt intake is not through education, but via regulations for food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their products.
Salt has been highlighted in efforts to improve public health, and rightfully so. It can increase blood pressure, especially in African Americans, and high blood pressure is a main risk factor for heart disease (heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure). While you may not realize it, salt can be addictive. Just ask someone to put down their bag of potato chips.
What’s tricky about reducing salt intake is that most of what we consume is not added by the salt shaker but is from packaged foods. Plus, it’s not just what we expect to be high in sodium (canned vegetables, soups, chips, frozen dinners), but it’s also often high in unexpected packaged foods, such as cereal and breads. While it’s a good idea to watch out for foods high in sodium, here are some other tips on how to help control blood pressure:
- Eat fruits and vegetables. They’re full of vitamins, fiber and low in calories, but many are also high in potassium, which can counteract a high salt intake. Bananas, potatoes, tomatoes and oranges are particularly good sources.
- Put down the juice or soda and drink coconut water instead; it contains as much potassium in a cup as about one and a half bananas.
- Exercise. Get up and get that body moving. You don’t have to join a gym…just start walking or riding your bike outside. Make sure to ask your doctor first.
- Eat whole foods. Since most of the salt we consume is from packaged foods, cut down on your intake just by cooking more and eating packaged foods less. Jamie Oliver, the British chef, is known not just for his Food Revolution, but also for his easy-to-make cooking style. He’s got plenty of these simple recipes on his website.