Reduce salt, lower blood pressure


First Posted: 3/1/2013

There has been much discussion as to whether or not we Americans consume too much salt and that consuming large amounts of sodium is the reason for alarming rates of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Some studies have shown that if you boost fruits, vegetables and calcium in your meals you can lower your blood pressure. The National Lung and Blood Institute reports that the DASH diet’s (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) menus containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium can lower blood pressure and that an even lower level of sodium, 1,500 milligrams, can further reduce blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association, “Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide and high blood pressure is a major risk factor.” For the estimated one in three Americans who will develop high blood pressure, a high-sodium diet may be to blame.

We Americans love our salt. Salt is, in chemical terms, sodium chloride. It is estimated that we consume an average of 3400 mg per day, which is almost 50 percent more than the recommended 2300 mg and 127 percent more than what health professionals really recommend to further reduce blood pressure.

Some of us might say we don’t add salt at the table or I stopped adding salt to my boiling water for pasta. But where is the salt in out diets coming from?

It’s surprising to note that 65 percent of the sodium we consume is from processed foods and approximately 25 percent from restaurant foods.

Here is the list of processed foods in order from highest to lowest sodium content: Bread and rolls, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, pizza, pasta and pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, tortillas, tacos, sausage, franks, cheese, grain based desserts, soups, beef and beef mixed dishes, rice and rice mixed dishes and burgers (NHANCEA 2005-2006).

American should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2300 mg or 1500 mg per day, depending on age and other individual characteristics. (Dietary Guidelines for American 2010). This means that we need to do more than just remove the salt shaker; it means reading food labels and making a few changes on our grocery store lists.

Pick one of the processed foods listed above which gives us a high amount of sodium in our diets, like pasta and pasta dishes. Many of us choose a premade sauce when we need a quick dinner or when our adolescent children need to make themselves a quick dinner. If you don’t already, try making a large batch of marinara sauce and freeze it in one quart containers. Tomato puree has under 20 milligrams of sodium per serving. Compare it to tomato sauce or prepared spaghetti sauce. It’s a minimum of 200 milligrams less per serving.

Here is an easy-to-make meatless dinner which is also lower in sodium than prepared sauces. Enjoy and feel good about yourself.

Roasted Tomato and Penne

2 pints cherry tomatoes

1 thinly sliced large red onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes.

½ cup fresh chopped basil or 2 Tbsp dried basil

16 ounce canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (removes 30 percent of sodium)

½ cup low sodium chicken broth

¾ pound cooked rinsed and drained penne pasta.

Toss ingredients with olive oil. Roast at 450 until tomatoes burst, turning pan once. (20 min). Remove from oven. Add beans, parsley, and low sodium chicken broth.

Toss penne with tomato mixture. Serves 4.

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