Sea Salt, Wine Confuses Americans

Salt and wine confuse most Americans. Sea salt is not a low sodium alternative to regular table salt. Wine is good for your heart, but only one to two glasses a day. Memorize those facts in case you are part of the next American Heart Association survey. According to the press release, “Sixty-one percent of respondents incorrectly agreed that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt. Kosher salt and most sea salt are chemically the same as table salt (40 percent sodium), and they count the same toward total sodium consumption.” Additionally, most Americans knew alcohol was good for the heart, but only 30 percent knew the recommended intake is only one glass for women and two for men.

Salt Basics:

Almost half of respondents thought table salt was the source of most of the salt in our diet. Not true.  More than 75 percent of your sodium intake is from processed foods.  Here are some of the biggest salt culprits: fast food; restaurant food; canned foods like beans, soups, stews, fish and veggies; cheese; bread; instant soups, gravies and packaged seasoned rice dishes; smoked, cured, or processed meats; and condiments like ketchup, Asian sauces, olives and pickles.

Aim for meals containing fewer than 500mg of sodium.

The CDC recommends only 1,500mg of sodium per day.  The average American consumes closer to 3400mg of sodium daily. One teaspoon of salt contains 2300 milligrams (mg) of sodium – the maximum daily recommended intake for healthy individuals by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

FYI Tip: To Counteract High-Salt Diet, Increase Potassium. Eat a Banana!

Blood pressure is regulated in part by a balance of potassium and sodium within the cells. An adequate intake of dietary potassium is essential to regulating the amount of sodium in the cells. The benefits of potassium are plentiful, particularly for people with high blood pressure.  Extra potassium counterbalances a diet with excess sodium, thus helping to lower blood pressure

For more salt tips check out this article on simple ways to reduce salt in your diet.

Alcohol Heart Health Basics:

The heart-healthy benefits of beer and wine are largely attributed to the alcohol content. A moderate amount of alcohol increases the transport rates of HDL, raising the blood concentrations. HDL, or high density lipoproteins, acts as cholesterol scavengers in the bloodstream, removing extra circulating LDL (“bad” cholesterol). The goal is to have an HDL over 60 mg/dL, which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. High consumption of alcohol is actually associated with higher LDL cholesterol. Two beers for men, one for ladies.

Wine’s Other Perk

We’ve all heard that moderate wine consumption can be beneficial for heart health. While most of us interpret this as giving us permission to enjoy that glass of red wine with dinner and think nothing more of it, the real hero behind the scenes may be a naturally occurring compound in that wine called resveratrol (RS).  Resveratrol is found in grapes, grape products and other sources, such as nuts. Resveratrol helps alter cholesterol levels, providing antioxidant action on damaging free-radicals, and acting as an anti-inflammatory agent.

FYI Tip: Champagne Has Perks Too.

A 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated whether the polyphenols in champagne have effects similar to those in red wine on heart health.  Nitric oxide is a chemical that plays an important role in sending messages among molecules in the body. In blood vessels, nitric oxide signals smooth muscle to relax so the blood vessels can dilate. The polyphenols in champagne may be partially responsible for maintaining vascular nitric oxide levels.



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