For millions of us, it’s a guilty pleasure...
“Well if I’m going to snack it’s usually with salted nuts, or granola that has salted nuts in it,” says Karen Mars.
Who doesn’t love salty snacks? Karen Mars, like most Americans, tends to spice up her meals.
“I’m not big on meat, I’m not big on carbs but if I’m going to eat those and my vegetables too -I am going to pick up the salt shaker and put salt on them,” says Mars.
Stop right there- researchers are confirming what many heart specialists already knew. Too much sodium can have serious health consequences.
“If you look at graphs over the last 20 years or so, the rate of hypertension has gone up steadily. Not only because the aging of our population, but in the younger population. So it’s a poor diet; high sodium diet, that contributes to high instances of hypertension,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Hypertension contributes to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The traditional American diet isn’t helping.
“Whenever I talk about sodium to my patients, they universally say ‘I don’t add salt to
my food’. So my next question is, do you eat prepared foods, do you eat out a lot? If you look at the sodium content on restaurant menus, most foods have about 2,000 mg or more. Just a simple bowl of soup might have 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg,” says Dr. Taschner.
There is a dash of good news in these findings. Cutting salt intake and eating more fruits and vegetables may turn the tables. Most of us are getting at least twice the recommended amount of sodium.
A modest reduction of salt for 4 or more weeks may lower systolic pressure (the top number for graphic) an average of 5mm. reductions were greater in people with hypertension. Still it may be hard to kick the salt habit.
“We have expectations of what food is going to taste like when we eat out and when we prepare it at home, and what tastes good. And sodium is a large part of that,” says Dr. Taschner.
“I’ll usually give it a pre-taste, but generally it will need salt in my opinion,” says Mars.
So we may have to change our tastes in order to get a change of heart.