Is your salt habit shaking up your blood pressure?

Written by: 
Bianca Sansom

Many people have acquired the taste for high salt diets. Salt elevates the levels of sodium in your bloodstream, reducing your kidney’s ability to remove water, hence causing your body to hold onto more water. Ultimately, leading to higher blood pressure due to the extra fluid and strain on the blood vessels leading to the kidneys, arteries, heart and brain. Diuretics (blood pressure medication) are also ineffective with a high salt intake. Certain genes involved in the regulation of blood pressure, are highly salt sensitive such as Angiotensinogen (AGT) and Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE), which also elevate your risk of developing hypertension with high dietary salt intake. High blood pressure is commonly called the “silent killer”. It does not have any apparent symptoms but can dramatically increase the risk for strokes, heart failure, heart attacks and kidney failure.

Approximately 80% of the salt we ingest is hidden in processed foods, such as bread, biscuits, cheese, cereal, already made meals and takeaways, only 20% comes from out cooking or table salt.

Another important mineral is Potassium. Our bodies rely heavily on potassium to function properly,  helping to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt. Our kidneys filter our blood, removing any extra fluid and storing it in our bladder. This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull water across the wall of cells from the blood stream.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your potassium levels to help restore this delicate balance, aiding your kidney’s to work more efficiently – helping to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level.

So what can you do to lower your sodium intake?
 
Make the smart choice:
  • Choose lower-sodium foods or low-sodium versions of your favourite foods.
  • Read the labels of prepared foods.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables (avoid frozen or canned variants).
  • Snack on fruit and raw vegetables.
  • Use unsalted versions of nuts, peas and lentils.
  • Avoid using salt during meal preparation.

Spice it up with seasoning alternatives:

There are many flavourful alternatives to salt, you just have to get creative and experiment!
Below is a list of seasoning alternatives to create variety:

 

  • Allspice: Lean meats, stews, tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, cranberry sauce, gravies, lean meat
  • Almond extract: Puddings, fruits
  • Basil: Fish, lamb, lean ground meats, stews, salads, soups, sauces, fish cocktails
  • Bay leaves: Lean meats, stews, poultry, soups, tomatoes
  • Caraway seeds: Lean meats, stews, soups, salads, breads, cabbage, asparagus, noodles
  • Chives: Salads, sauces, soups, lean meat dishes, vegetables
  • Cider vinegar: Salads, vegetables, sauces
  • Cinnamon: Fruits (especially apples), breads
  • Curry powder: Lean meats (especially lamb), veal, chicken, fish, tomatoes, tomato soup
  • Dill: Fish sauces, soups, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, salads, macaroni, lean beef, lamb, chicken, fish
  • Garlic (not garlic salt): Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes
  • Ginger: Chicken, fruits
  • Lemon juice: Lean meats, fish, poultry, salads, vegetables
  • Mace: Hot breads, apples, fruit salads, carrots, cauliflower, squash, potatoes, veal, lamb
  • Mustard (dry): Lean meats, chicken, fish, salads, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, sauces
  • Nutmeg: Fruits, potatoes, chicken, fish, lean meat loaf, toast, veal, pudding
  • Onion powder (not onion salt): Lean meats, stews, vegetables, salads, soups
  • Paprika: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
  • Parsley: Lean meats, fish, soups, salads, sauces, vegetables
  • Peppermint extract: Puddings, fruits
  • Pimiento: Salads, vegetables, casserole dishes
  • Rosemary: Chicken, veal, lean meat loaf, lean beef, lean pork, sauces, stuffings, potatoes, peas, lima beans
  • Sage: Lean meats, stews, biscuits, tomatoes, green beans, fish, lima beans, onions, lean pork
  • Savory: Salads, lean pork, lean ground meats, soups, green beans, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, peas
  • Thyme: Lean meats (especially veal and lean pork), sauces, soups, onions, peas, tomatoes, salads
  • Turmeric: Lean meats, fish, sauces, rice