Low Salt, Low Sodium, and the DASH Diet
For years we have been hearing that we need to lower the salt (or sodium) in our diets. And most people have reduced the amount of salt that they add to their foods at the table. So, why is there still a concern? Processed foods, either packaged or from restaurants, still have very high levels of added-salt, and we are consuming much more of these foods.
But it isn't hopeless. The DASH diet is a low sodium plan, and even helps to reduce the risk from consuming more than the recommended amount of sodium. And The DASH Diet Action Plan is the book that makes it practical to follow the DASH diet and reduce sodium in your diet.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that most people reduce sodium to less than 1500 mg/day. Younger, healthy people without high risk for hypertension should reduce sodium to less than 2300 mg. These new guidelines mirror the Dietary Recommended Intake (DRI) which were issued several years ago.
Who needs to try to keep sodium to less than 1500 mg/day?
- People who are over 51 years old.
- People with high blood pressure or hypertension, or have ever been told that they have high blood pressure or hypertension.
- People who have diabetes, or who have ever been told that they are diabetic.
- People with chronic kidney disease.
- African Americans.
Lowering sodium is more challenging than just putting away the salt shaker. The vast majority of sodium in the typical diet comes from processed foods. Even if the food industry cut their use of sodium by 25%, that would still not help most people meet the new guidelines.
What will help with keeping sodium under control? Eating real food. Food that has been minimally processed. The DASH diet is based on these principles. And the combination of healthy foods helps to lower blood pressure naturally, even beyond the decrease in sodium.
The DASH diet plan is a low sodium plan. And, of course, it brings has additional benefits to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and improve heart health. The DASH diet is rich in the blood pressure-lowering foods that include vegetables, fruits, low-fat and nonfat dairy, nuts/beans/seeds, and it also emphasizes whole grains, lean meats/fish/poultry, and heart-healthy fats. It is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that have been shown to improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and may be associated with lower risks of other health issues. Learn more about the DASH diet. The DASH diet is based on the research, "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension." It is recommended by The National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The reduction of sodium (by 1200 mg/day) in the diet of average Americans would be expected to save 68,000 lives each year. And the Institute of Medicine has recommended that Congress require the FDA to enact regulations to reduce added-sodium in prepared foods. But in the meantime, we each can take action to lower the sodium in our own diets, each day. Limiting processed foods, and preparing our own food is a great start. And The DASH Diet Action Plan shows us how to make it a habit that works in our real lives.
In addition to adopting the DASH diet, there are more reasons to lower your sodium intake.
What is the relationship of the DASH diet and a need for salt restriction? First it helps to know who is sensitive to salt. You may already know that you are retaining fluid after high salt meals if your watch or rings get tight, or perhaps your socks leave marks on your ankles. In general, people become more salt-sensitive as they age, and African Americans are more sensitive to salt. If you have high blood pressure, you should be watching your salt intake. Eating a diet rich in potassium (such as the DASH Diet) is associated with helping the body flush out excess sodium. And African Americans may especially benefit from this kind of diet. The DASH diet won't overcome a poor, high-salt diet, but it will help to lower blood pressure even more if you keep sodium intake under control.
What are the current US recommendations for sodium intake? All Americans are recommended to keep sodium intake less than 2300 mg, by the DRI (Dietary Recommended Intake). For people with high blood pressure, the recommendation is 1500 mg or less per day.
As shown in the articles referenced below, we are learning more about the benefits of sodium reduction in the diet. In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, it is estimated that if Americans reduced sodium intake by 1200 mg per day, it would prevent about 90,000 new cases of Coronary Heart Disease, about 49,000 strokes, 76,000 heart attacks, and 68,000 deaths from all causes each year.
And in a study in New Zealand, researchers found that high salt diets cause blood vessels to be less flexible, and thus more prone to developing high blood pressure and heart disease factors.
Projected Effect of Dietary Salt Reductions on Future Cardiovascular Disease. Bibbins-Domingo K, Chertow GM, Coxson PG, Moran A, Lightwood JM, Pletcher MJ, Goldan L.
New England Journal of Medicine. 2010 Feb 18;362(7):590-599. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
Dietary salt loading impairs arterial vascular reactivity.
Todd AS, Macginley RJ, Schollum JB, Johnson RJ, Williams SM, Sutherland WH, Mann JI, Walker RJ.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan 27. [Epub ahead of print]
The DASH Diet Action Plan is the user-friendly guide to the DASH diet. This book was developed to make it simple to understand and put into practice.
Learn more about the DASH diet and the book below.
Learn more about the book, or view the table of contents.
Learn more about the DASH diet.
Learn how the DASH diet promotes weight loss.
Read about DASH diet in the News.
Read about new DASH diet research.
Learn more about book author Marla Heller, MS, RD