Patients often ask me about salt-sensitivity and the truth behind the need to limit salt in their diet. Does the salt in our food really play that big of a role in high blood pressure? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. While there is no current predictor of salt-sensitivity, the evidence on hypertension is pretty clear. Ninety percent of the population develops hypertension at some time in their life with certain groups at higher risk than others. The bottom line_ when it comes to being salt-sensitive, your best bet is to assume that you are. To put a positive spin on this seemingly dismal outcome, let's look at some preventative measures.

Here is a hypertension prevention list:

  1. Get salt off the table. No getting around this one.
  2. Monitor processed food intake-from salad dressing to peanut butter, the majority of items we buy in the grocery store all contain sodium. Soups, frozen dinners, luncheon meat, and smoked foods are the biggest culprits. When in doubt, read the label.
  3. Cooking at home will almost always be lower in salt than eating out.
  4. Exercise. Amazing how this one always shows up on the list...
  5. Increase potassium. In school, I learned "bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, and milk" as the best sources of potassium. In general, go for fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy to meet your potassium needs. Again, nothing new here.
  6. Diffuse your salt. Convenience foods are time savers so I understand the need to use them here and there. To help lower your intake, try stretching sodium-ridden foods a bit further. For example, let's say you're making mac 'n' cheese for dinner. It's a packaged food so you can count on there being sodium. Additionally it has processed cheese - another red flag. Diffuse the salt by adding steamed broccoli. This makes it a more balanced meal, stretches the box of mac 'n' cheese further, and in turn decreases the amount of sodium per serving. Another idea is to add more fresh veggies to canned soups.
  7. Spice it up. You will be amazed how much different spices can enhance the flavor of food without adding sodium. Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme...

SODIUM

Adequate Intake (mg) Upper Limit
Children, 1-3 years 1000 1500
Children, 4-8 years 1200 1900
Children, 9-13 years 1500 2200
Ages 14-50 1500 2300
Ages 50-70 1300 2300
Age 70+ 1200 2300
POTASSIUM
Adequate Intake (mg)
Children, 1-3 years 3000
Children, 4-8 years 3800
Children, 9-13 years 4500
Ages 14+ 4700
Institute of Medicine.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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