Q: My blood pressure is a little high. How much salt can I eat in a day?
A: With February being American Heart Month, this is a good time to emphasize the importance of watching your sodium intake. You can help prevent and control high blood pressure by cutting down on salt and other forms of sodium. Try to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) per day from all the foods you eat. If you can, cut your sodium intake even more — to no more than 1,500 milligrams per day, which equals about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.
Here are some tips on limiting your intake of salt and other forms of sodium:
• Use reduced-sodium or no-salt-added products. Examples are no-salt-added canned vegetables or ready-to-eat cereals that have no added salt or the lowest amount of sodium listed on the nutrition facts panel on the food label.
• When you cook, be "spicy" instead of "salty." Flavor foods with herbs, spices, wine, lemon, lime or vinegar. Be creative!
• Don't bring the salt shaker to the table. Try an herb substitute instead, such as powdered garlic, onion or thyme.
• Use fresh poultry, fish and lean meat, rather than canned, smoked or processed types.
• Cut down on cured foods (such as bacon and ham), foods packed in brine (such as pickles and olives), and condiments (such as mustard, ketchup, barbeque sauce and monosodium glutamate). You should even limit lower-sodium versions of soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. They still have quite a bit of sodium in them.
• Read the nutrition facts label on the food package. Many convenience foods are loaded with sodium, such as frozen dinners, pizza, breads, packaged mixes, canned soups and broths, and salad dressings.
• Rinse canned foods, such as tuna and canned beans, to remove some of the sodium.
Remember, while salt substitutes containing potassium chloride may be useful for some individuals, they can be harmful to people with certain medical conditions. Ask your doctor before trying salt substitutes.
In addition to lowering your sodium intake, you may want to follow an eating plan called DASH. DASH stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," and the eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods and low-fat milk products. It is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, protein and fiber, but low in saturated fat, trans fat, total fat and cholesterol. It limits red meat, sweets and beverages with added sugars.
A major study found that people who followed the DASH eating plan reduced their blood pressure more than those who ate more "typical" American diets, which have fewer fruits and vegetables. A second study found that people who followed the DASH eating plan and cut down on sodium had the biggest reductions in blood pressure.
While the DASH eating plan is geared especially toward people with high blood pressure or prehypertension, it is a healthy plan for everyone. So share it with your family.
To check out the complete DASH eating plan, go to www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf or contact me if you don’t have access to the Internet.
Looking for recipes that are healthy for the heart? Visit LJWorld.com for a low-sodium Chicken and Spanish Rice recipe.
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.