Even less salt recommended

News Release Distributed 05/29/09

Eating only 1 teaspoon of salt a day is a challenge for many Americans. This is the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Now, Americans face a greater challenge, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. Most people should consume less than two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt daily.

A Centers for Disease Control study says that two out of three adults are at an especially high risk for health problems from too much sodium because they are among three groups who tend to be more salt-sensitive than others. These groups are middle-aged and older adults (40 years of age or older); African-Americans; and people with hypertension (high blood pressure).

In other words, Reames says, nearly 70 percent of Americans should be eating only 1,500 mg of sodium daily, which is less than two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.

Eating less sodium can help prevent, lower or even control blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major cause of stroke, heart failure and kidney failure.

Most sodium comes from packaged, processed, store-bought and restaurants foods. Only about 5 percent comes from salt added during cooking, and about 6 percent comes from being added at the table.

To find out how much sodium you are eating, check the labels on food products and add up the milligrams of sodium, Reames advises.

“You may be surprised at the large amounts of sodium that canned, boxed and packaged foods contain,” the nutritionist says. She recommends buying fresh food and preparing it yourself to lower sodium intake.

“Don't forget to check on the amount of sodium from foods eaten out,” Reames adds. Many fast-food chains and some restaurants have nutrition information that includes sodium.

“Also, when eating out, ask that your foods be prepared with little or no salt,” she says.

Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan, can reduce both the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already-elevated blood pressure.

The DASH eating plan emphasizes dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains and low-fat milk and milk products. It discourages refined grains and total fats, (especially cholesterol and saturated and trans fat) and added sugars.

Another way to blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure for some individuals is to consume more potassium. This nutrient also reduces the risk of developing kidney stones and decreases bone loss during aging.

The best food sources of potassium are leafy green vegetables, vine fruits and root vegetables. Meat, milk and cereals contain potassium but not as much as from fruits and vegetables. The dietary potassium recommendation is 4,700 mg per day, which is typical of a healthy diet.

“Although salt substitutes containing potassium chloride may be useful for some people, they can be harmful to those with certain medical conditions,” Reames says, advising, “These individuals should consult a health-care provider before using salt substitutes.”


Editor: Mark Claesgens 

5/29/2009 6:17:26 PM
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