Arteries become less flexible as we age (increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke). The good news: there’s a lot we can do to protect our arteries with diet and lifestyle. Studies have shown that a high sodium diet stiffens arteries above and beyond the effect on blood pressure. A recent study published in the journal Atherosclerosis, was consistent with other studies showing that when overweight subjects with normal blood pressure were consuming a “lower” sodium diet (2,600 mg per day) versus a high sodium diet (3,600 mg per day), their arteries worked better, dilating as they should.
In addition to eating a lower sodium diet, 2013 guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend a dietary pattern of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts with limited red meat and foods and beverages high in sugar.
How much sodium is the right amount? The recommendation is to eat 2300 mg of sodium or less per day for healthy individuals and no more than 1500 mg of sodium per day for individuals with kidney disease, high blood pressure and some other heart disease risk factors. The majority of the sodium that we consume, nearly 80%, comes from processed and restaurant foods. Eating out less (especially fast food), cooking more at home and packing snacks and lunches are ways to decrease one’s sodium intake. When consuming packaged foods, look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” options. (“Low sodium” options will contain 140 mg of sodium or less per serving.)
What about sea salt? Sea salt does have some trace minerals that many feel make it a superior choice over regular table salt; however, the sodium content of sea salt is very comparable to that of table salt. Both should be used sparingly while cooking and at the table.
*Endurance athletes likely require more sodium, and guidelines for the general population may not be applicable. Also, restricting sodium during high intensity or long duration exercise in hot conditions is not appropriate. Sodium is an electrolyte and is a component of sweat. See a registered dietitian for more personalized guidance.
What’s your favorite low-sodium dish? Leave a response in the comment section below or on any of our social media sites!