For Lower Blood Pressure, Eat Less Sodium

by Donna Quirk, MBA RD LD
LMC Clinical Nutrition Manager

When most of us think about high blood pressure, we think about sodium. Research has shown that decreasing sodium in the diet will lower blood pressure. As a result, experts agree that we should all eat less than 2300 mg (1 teaspoon of salt) per day.

You should eat 1500 mg (2/3 teaspoon of salt) per day if you are 51 years old or older, African-American, or already have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, or heart problems.

The average American eats 3400 mg or more per day. We have room for improvement!

To decrease your sodium intake, pay attention to and eat less of the following:

•Processed and Prepared Foods – The majority of the sodium we eat comes from processed and prepared foods like frozen meals, canned soups, pizza, cold cuts and bacon, convenient boxed pasta and rice dinners, and fast food.

•Don’t be Fooled – Because of processing, foods that don’t taste salty may still have a lot of sodium. Breakfast cereals and baked goods can have 300 – 400 mg of sodium per serving.

Hint: Read food labels and try to avoid products with more that 200 mg of sodium per serving.

•Salt Shaker and Condiments – Salt in recipes, using the salt shaker, and condiments like soy sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings can really add up.

Hint: Leave salt out of recipes and water used to cook pasta, rice, and potatoes. Make homemade salad dressings with oil and vinegars. Start slow and work toward eliminating the salt shaker from the table.

Meeting the sodium recommendations is challenging but the health benefits are well worth it!

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4 Responses to “For Lower Blood Pressure, Eat Less Sodium”

  1. On that note, which is better for you? Margarine or butter? Butter is considered all natural but margarine boasts that it is lower fat…

  2. Thanks for the question. I believe the Butter vs. Margarine argument really got energized when recommendations to avoid trans fat were announced a few years ago.

    Butter and regular stick margarine have the same amount of calories – about 36 calories (from fat) per teaspoon. Butter is a source of saturated fat and cholesterol. For heart health we should all try to limit our saturated fat intake to 7% or roughly 125 – 140 calories per day. We should eat no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Remember that meats and higher fat dairy products are also saturated fat and cholesterol sources.

    Margarine is made with vegetable oils so it is cholesterol free. However, the more solid it is the more trans fat it has. Trans fat can increase blood cholesterol and lower the good HDL cholesterol. There is no safe level of trans fat.

    When selecting a margarine or butter spread, be sure to check the Nutrition Facts label and pay attention to the grams of saturated fat and trans fat. Look for products that have the lowest combined amount.

    Another suggestion is to look for a spread that is whipped or has been blended with olive oil or canola oil. Per serving, they have less calories than regular butter or margarine.

    ~Donna Quirk

  3. Great article. I will be going through many of these issues
    as well..

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