Rapid urbanization, changing lifestyle, along with the increasing production of processed food is transforming dietary patterns. Due to easy availability of highly processed food, people around the world are now consuming foods that are high in trans fat, saturated fats, sugar and salt. Salt is the primary source of sodium and overconsumption of the same is associated with high blood pressure or hypertension – and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
How does salt intake affect your blood pressure?
Salt makes your body retain water. Excessive consumption of salt causes the retained water to elevate your blood pressure. This can be a problem particularly if your blood pressure levels are too high – the more salt you consume, the higher your blood pressure will be. Moreover, eating too much salt reduces the efficacy of blood pressure medications, like diuretics. Therefore, one of the most natural and quicker ways to improve blood pressure levels is to cut back on the amount of salt taken daily.
How much salt is too much?
As per the recommendations of the American Heart Association, daily salt intake should vary between 1500mg and 2300mg for most adults. This means, ideally, an adult should consume no more than 6g of salt per day. However, most of us exceed the recommended limit.
Salt in your diet comes mainly from processed foods either because they are particularly rich in sodium – processed meat like salami, ham and bacon, ready meals, instant noodles, salty snack etc – or because they are frequently consumed in large amounts – breakfast cereal, bread and biscuits.
How to reduce sodium intake to improve blood pressure
The best way to avoid or cut down on salt intake is to eat foods that contain small or no traces of salt.
A specialized DASH diet rich in fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy and whole grains and essentially low in sodium is recommended for patients with high blood pressure. This type of diet skimps on cholesterol and saturated fat and can bring down your blood pressure by up to 11mm/Hg.
In addition to this, you can follow some tips to consume less salt and improve blood pressure.
Avoid adding salt when cooking – for example, salty foods like stock cubes, gravy granules, and soy sauce
Prepare your own meals
Purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and meat
Rinse canned foods that contain sodium
Instead of sprinkling table salt on your food, try adding spices
Reduce your portion size – less quantity of food means less amount of sodium
Read the ‘nutrition facts’ label before consuming salty foods
Initially, changing your eating habit may seem difficult – the food may taste bland without an adequate amount of salt. However, do not give up. Allow your taste buds to get accustomed to the changes in your food recipe and diet – and you will start enjoying your food in a few weeks. Remember, 6gm of salt is the maximum amount you should consume in a day – and the less you consume, the better it is for your blood pressure.