If you have high blood pressure, your salt intake may be partly to blame.
Salt (sodium chloride) is essential for nerve and muscle function, and, together with potassium, plays a part in fluid balance. Because it is so essential, your body is very efficient at conserving salt. This means that you really only need to consume a very small amount every day to top up your levels. Too much salt can trigger a series of effects that eventually lead to high blood pressure with all its consequences.
Salt is a natural flavour enhancer, which is why most of us tend to overdo it, but there are other ways of enjoying your food without overdosing on salt.
Here are some tips to help you curb excessive salt intake:
Your first strategy is to check the nutrition label on your foods.
Hidden sodium: Not all high sodium foods taste salty e.g. breakfast cereals, bakery muffins, energy drinks, processed meats and sports drinks.
Western diets are notoriously low in potassium and high in sodium, which is the opposite of what your body needs. Shift the sodium-potassium balance in your favour by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, which are low in sodium and are good sources of potassium.
Retrain your taste buds gradually by slowly decreasing the amount of extra salt you sprinkle on your food, then gradually reduce the amount of salt used during cooking. You can reduce your “extra” salt by up to 25% without any detectable change in flavour.
Experiment with herbs and spices to introduce new flavours, rather than just using salt. And remember that many MSG products (e.g. Aromat) also contain sodium – check the label!!
Healthier fats and oils: in recent years, there has been a drive towards fat-free products. The flavour of foods is heavily influenced by fat content. To maintain the acceptable flavour of these low fat products – e.g. salad dressings – many manufacturers have increased both the sugar and salt content. If you choose a low fat or fat free product, be sure to check the label for sodium content if you have a blood pressure problem. You may find that using a small amount of a low fat product is a better choice than a larger amount of a fat-free, high sodium product.
The DASH diet is specially formulated to be low in sodium to help combat high blood pressure. Ask your doctor or dietician about this diet.