much of this science of nutrition, experts donít always
agree on whatís best for us. Not that they donít have good
information. Sometimes we have lots of valid data. But Mr.
Jonesí response to a dietary change may be entirely
different from Mrs. Smithís. Case in point, several
respected organizations have come up with different
recommendations on how low we should go with our intake of
sodium. Depending on which experts you listen to, we should be
consuming somewhere between 1500 to 2300 milligrams of sodium
a day, according to an article on this topic by registered
dietitian Karen Collins. Thatís quite a bit less than the
estimated 3500 milligrams we Americans currently consume.
we need to cut back on sodium, anyway? Excess sodium throws
our bodyís balance of fluids out of whack and can raise the
pressure of blood as it flows through our arteries. This extra
force can lead to heart damage, strokes, and kidney disease.
we get off the salt wagon? Believe it or not, most of the
sodium we ingest is already in our food even if we never pick
up a salt shaker. Pizza, sandwiches, soup and deli meats are
some of the saltiest American foods, says the American Heart
some ways to cut back on salt and bring down the pressure:
the label. "Low sodium" means less than 140
milligrams of sodium per serving; "Reduced sodium"
means the food has at least 25 percent less sodium than its
regular version. "Lightly salted" (nuts, anyone?)
means this food has 50 percent less sodium than the usual
Choose less processed foods. (Since sodium is a great
preservative, it often hangs out in highly processed foods.)
Instead of instant flavored oatmeal, opt for one-minute cooked
oatmeal, says Collins. Choose natural cheese rather than
processed cheese. And use fresh, frozen (no sauce, please) or
no-salt-added canned vegetables.
Speaking of vegetables, the now-famous DASH diet (Dietary
Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is rich in fruits and
vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods which provide
an array of nutrients known to keep our arteries pliable and
our blood pressure down. Potassium, for example, helps the
body get rid of excess sodium. DASH is also rich in calcium,
magnesium, nitrate (natural nitrates in food are good for
us!), and other substances that keep our arteries from getting
stiff and tight.
the love handles. Experts calculate that we can bring our
systolic (the top number) blood pressure down 1 mm Hg for
every 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of weight loss.
Watch the booze. Excess alcohol pumps up blood pressure, even
without the salt on the rim.
experts debate the actual numbers, this we know: Any dietary
change that keeps our intake of sodium somewhere between 1500
to 2300 milligrams a day is probably a good thing for most of