Has your doctor discussed with you your need to lower your salt or sodium intake due to high blood pressure? If so, you should heed their warning. Excess dietary sodium has been linked to elevations in blood pressure, which can adversely affect organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels, or arteries, at higher than normal pressures. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood.
To control or lower high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend that you adopt heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as heart-healthy eating patterns like the DASH eating plan, alone or with medicines.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, when used along with other lifestyle changes, can help you prevent and control your blood pressure. The DASH plan includes whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. It is lower in lean red meat, sweets, added sugars and sugar containing beverages.
Following the DASH eating plan includes making good choices in preparation of foods with less salt and sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends consumption of less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. The vast majority of adults eat more sodium than they should, an average of more than 3,400 mg each day.
It could be that you are getting more sodium than you need, even if you never pick up the salt shaker. More than 70 percent of the sodium we eat comes from packaged and restaurant foods. That can make it hard to control how much sodium you eat, because it is added to your food before you buy it, and with today’s busy lifestyles, people are eating out more.
Check the nutrition facts label for sodium content. Select foods labeled low-sodium, very low-sodium, or salt-free, and watch out for ingredients that indicate high sodium content. Companies can market lower-sodium products using these terms on food packaging:
low sodium-140 milligrams or less per serving; reduced or less sodium- at least 25 percent less sodium per serving than the usual sodium level; or Light in sodium-if sodium is reduced by at least 50 percent per serving.
If an ingredient has the word sodium, it should raise a red flag. This would include such ingredients as sodium nitrates, sodium benzoate, sodium sulfate, etc. Baked goods with baking soda or baking powder may also be high in sodium.
If you are concerned about the amount of sodium you are consuming in your diet, reading nutrition facts labels will help you decide the healthier choice. Certain foods are known to be high in sodium and should be avoided. For example, canned soups often contain large amounts of sodium as a preservative. Look for those marked low sodium.
Condiments are another group of foods that bust your sodium budget. Traditional ketchup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, salad dressings, and steak sauce are all high in sodium. Cured and salted meats, ham, bologna, hot dogs, bacon, sausages, herring, anchovies, sardines, all contribute to high sodium intake.
The easiest way to limit your sodium intake is to cook at home. You are in control of the sodium in foods you prepare and here you can experiment with fresh and dried herbs in place of sodium. Herbs and spices add flavor without adding sodium.
"Cook Your Way to a Healthier You" cooking school will be held in Nashville in February and in Texarkana in April if you are interested in learning more about cooking and following the DASH diet to lower your sodium intake and stop hypertension.
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We are online at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
Stir-Fry sauce is usually very high in sodium. Here is a version you can make at home that only has 30 mg per tablespoon, compared to the low sodium commercial brand that has 575 mg of sodium per tablespoon.
2 tablespoons sodium free beef bouillon
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dark molasses
1/8 teaspoon each ground ginger and garlic powder
Dash of black pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and boil gently, uncovered for 5 or more minutes or until sauce is reduced to one half cup. When cooled, pour into lidded jar and keep in the refrigerator. Stir before using.
Makes one-half cup. Nutrition information per tablespoon: 5 calories, 0 fat, 0 protein, 1 g total carbohydrates, 30 mg sodium.
Carla Due is a county extension agent-staff chair with the Miller County Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
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