Too much salt in your diet can lead to hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The average American consumes four times the recommended amount of sodium in her/his diet each day. Research is showing that this is a contributing factor in the development of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
WHAT WE KNOW
One teaspoon of salt has 2,400 mg of sodium, which means one teaspoon can meet your daily recommendation of less than 2,300 mg per day! Most Americans consume way over the recommendation due to the high sodium content in processed foods, fast foods, eating many meals outside of the home, and consuming too few fruits and vegetables.
The number of people in the United States who are classified as hypertensive and prehypertensive is growing each day! Sixty-Five million Americans have hypertension (31%), 45 million Americans have prehypertension, and the blood pressure levels in children are on the rise. These numbers will continue to increase as we continue to see a decrease in physical activity and an increase in consumption of processed foods.
Many of the risk factors associated with the increase of hypertension and prehypertension include high cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, cigarette smoking, obesity and overweight, diabetes, excessive salt intake, and a sedentary lifestyle. Simple changes to a person’s diet and lifestyle can really impact her/his risk of developing heart disease later in life.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Studies have shown that a diet lower in sodium and rich in fruits and vegetables greatly decreases a person’s risk of developing hypertension and heart disease. Even those who are diagnosed with hypertension notice a significant decrease when they replaced many of their processed, higher in sodium foods with fruits and vegetables.
Dash Diet Eating Plan. A research-based diet known as the DASH diet eating plan is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or nonfat dairy. It recommends consuming four  to five  servings of fruits and vegetables each day. The eating plan successfully decreases blood pressure in patients in just 14 days, proving the importance of fruits and vegetables in a heart-healthy diet. The diet is successful at lowering blood pressure because fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and many of them contain potassium and magnesium. These minerals have been shown the assist in lowering blood pressure as well.
Daily Reduction in Sodium. In a recent New England Journal of Medicine¹ article, it’s estimated that if Americans reduced sodium intake by 1200 mg per day, about 90,000 new cases of coronary heart disease, 49,000 strokes, 76,000 heart attacks, and 68,000 deaths from all causes would be prevented each year.
Canned Vegetables. It’s a known fact that canned vegetables do tend to be high in sodium. However, a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition² about processed foods being the major contributors to dietary salt intake found that “the food groups that were highest in sodium were sauces and spreads and processed meats. Cereal and cereal products and fruits and vegetables were the lowest.” Also, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association³ reported that “all canned vegetables contribute less than one percent of sodium.” This proves that fruits and vegetables are not the main contributors to our high-salt consuming society.
Being aware of the salt content in foods and making sure you’re getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily is a great way to begin making changes! Decrease your daily sodium content by replacing some of your processed cookies and sweets with fruits and vegetables.
The majority of fruits and vegetables are considered low-salt or salt-free foods but canned vegetables tend to be higher in sodium since salt is often used as a preservative. A simple solution is to wash and drain your vegetables with water before preparing them; this will decrease the sodium content by almost half!
Learn more about what foods and fruits and vegetables are considered low-sodium, very low-sodium, and sodium-free to help you make the best decisions when it comes to a low-sodium lifestyle.
Also, learn how to read food labels on some of your favorite foods to be sure that you’re making low-sodium choices. Luckily, many manufacturers have started to produce lower sodium options (such as lower sodium V8 juice) to allow you to still enjoy many of your favorite foods.
¹ Dunford, Elizabeth K., Bruce C. Neal, Jacqueline L.Webster. “A Systematic Survey of the Sodium Contents of Processed Foods.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 (2010): 413-20.
² Guthrie, J. and J. Morton, “Food Sources of Added Sweeteners in the Diets of Americans.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 100 (2000).
³ Cotton, P. et al. “Dietary Sources of Nutrients Among US Adults.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104 (2004).