Reducing sodium leads to substantial drop in blood pressure, finds NHLBI study

How does one get to a daily level of 1500 mg of sodium (the equivalent of 4 grams or 2/3 teaspoon of table salt)? According to Dr. Obarzanek, the best way for people to lower sodium in their diets is to start out small with a few simple changes.

Buy unsalted varieties of foods and condiments, take the salt away from the table, and dont use it in food preparation, she says.

A vitally important guiding principle of low-sodium eating, according to Dr. Obarzanek, is to eat fewer processed foods, a major source of sodium, or use lower sodium versions, if available. This means cutting back on regular commercially prepared frozen dinners, packaged mixes, and canned soups or broths.

To gauge the sodium level of processed foods, read nutrition labels for sodium content and the percent daily value. Dr. Obarzanek suggests choosing foods that are less than 5 percent of the daily value for sodium. You can also select foods by milligrams of sodium per serving. For example, a food with 140 mg. of sodium or less per serving is considered low sodium, one with 35 mg sodium or less per serving is very low sodium, and a food that has 0.5 mg sodium or less per serving is sodium free. These are the definitions used to label food products.

To add flavor to foods, try herbs, spices, lemon, lime, and vinegar rather than salt. Good snack options include unsalted pretzels or nuts mixed with raisins, graham crackers, lowfat and fat free yogurt, plain popcorn, and raw vegetables.

Dr. Obarzanek has several suggestions for dining out. Plan ahead and bank your sodium, she says. If you know youre going to have a high sodium dinner at a restaurant, have a lower sodium breakfast and lunch. Other tips include downsizing ordering the kiddie meal, which will have less sodium because its a smaller portion; avoiding fried dishes since batter is salted; and ordering sandwiches with lettuce and tomato instead of mayonnaise, sauces and condime

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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