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This post is for anyone who’s been told to go on a low sodium diet to lower their blood pressure in order to lessen their chances of getting heart disease.
We all need information to help us make the best possible choices for our health care. Information that goes beyond the conventional wisdom routinely given by many medical professionals.
But with hundreds if not thousands of articles about low sodium diets, the effects of salt on blood pressure, and the risks of heart disease, how do you drill down to find no-nonsense advice?
Because I’ve done the hard work for you.
I’ve dug through reams of information and also brought my experience gained from treating hundreds of patients to help you answer the question:
Is a low salt diet really an effective way to lower my blood pressure?
In this article:
- What a low salt diet really does to you
- This one thing may be causing your high blood pressure
- The one way to more effectively lower your blood pressure
- Free yourself from worry about sodium and your blood pressure
What A Low Salt Diet Really Does To You
When your doctor tells you your blood pressure is too high, what’s the first thing they recommend?
A low sodium diet.
So you get to work identifying and reducing or eliminating sources of sodium. You hide the saltshaker; stop cooking with salt, and diligently read the labels of everything you purchase.
You discover that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from the following foods:
- Breads and rolls
- Sandwiches (such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and submarine sandwiches)
- Cold cuts and cured meats (such as deli and packaged ham and turkey)
- Burritos and tacos
- Snack foods (such as chips, crackers, microwave popcorn, and pretzels)
- Chicken (includes processed chicken)
- Cheese (includes processed cheese)
- Egg dishes and omelets
You vow to cut down on or stop eating these foods. (The truth is, you’d be better off not eating any of them except the last couple, but for different health reasons such as lowering your insulin and blood sugar.)
But even if you eliminate these foods, there’s a catch.
Sure, going salt-free can lower your blood pressure, but you may be shocked by how much.
If you have normal blood pressure and go on a low sodium diet, it will decrease it by 1 percent.
If you have high blood pressure and go on a low sodium diet, it will decrease by 3.5 percent.
That’s it. That measly amount is all you’re likely to get.
Pretty insignificant, right?
As it turns out, lowering your salt intake doesn’t lower your blood pressure enough to provide significant protection for your heart.
So why is all of our attention on how bad high sodium is for our blood pressure and heart? It simply doesn’t add up.
This One Thing May Be Causing Your High Blood Pressure
Okay, going on a low sodium diet doesn’t necessarily help you lower your blood pressure.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution…
Increase your potassium intake.
Here’s why this works.
A diet that’s deficient in potassium will increase your risk of getting high blood pressure with its accompanying risks of heart disease and stroke.
Yet how often do you hear about this? I’m guessing never, until now.
The truth is that high blood pressure is often caused by a potassium deficiency, and not as much by an excess of sodium.
Some hard facts: the recommended dietary allowance of sodium is 2,300 mg per day. Yet the average American consumes 3,300 mg per day, resulting in a daily excess of 1,000 mg.
By contrast, the recommended dietary allowance of potassium is 4,700 mg per day. The average American consumes only 2,640 mg daily, resulting in a potassium deficit of 2,060 mg.
See how the potassium deficiency stands out in contrast to the sodium excess?
The One Way To More Effectively Lower Your Blood Pressure
The one thing you can do to increase your potassium level and lower your blood pressure is simple and easy to incorporate into your daily life. Here it is:
Eat more salad.
That’s it. That’s all you need to do.
Way simpler than hunting down and taking out sodium sources like a salt assassin, right?
You need at least 7 cups of vegetables every single day to get you close to the required amount of calcium. Most supplements contain far less potassium, which is why I don’t recommend them.
I can almost hear what some of you are thinking, though.
Seven cups of salad every day?! But I don’t even like vegetables!
I get it, because I didn’t like them at one time either. So I created a veggie shake recipe for those of you who gag at the thought of eating so many veggies. Drink them instead! Or check out the many other ideas I put together for you.
Free Yourself From Worry About Sodium And Your Blood Pressure
It’s not so hard to choose, is it?
Go the conventional sodium-lowering route for minimal potential effect, or pick the alternative of eating more vegetables for better results.
One is complex and requires constant nutritional vigilance. The other is elegantly simple and, as a bonus, provides significantly more benefits even beyond increasing your potassium and lowering your blood pressure.
Talk about an all-around win!
There’s a whole variety of delicious vegetables out there just waiting to be incorporated into your diet. No major lifestyle change is required of you. Just eat your veggies!
So, go on. Combine a few vegetables you like with some new ones to delight your taste buds. (And start lowering your blood pressure.)
Get creative and challenge yourself to get to the minimum 7 cups each day.
You’ll be glad you did.