Salt Kicks Hypertension Up a Notch

Salt is not always as visible as in
the shaker; © Hemera

"When you look across whole populations, societies where people don't eat much salt have lower blood pressures than places where people eat a lot of salt,” says Lee Green, M.D., MPH, associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School.

"Because hypertension is an enormous contributor to strokes, heart failure and heart attacks, that makes controlling it a great problem for patients and for physicians,” Green says.

Many people would be surprised to learn about the amount of salt in some pre-packaged foods, says Lynn Glazewski, R.D., MPH, a dietitian with the U-M Health System. Some types of healthy-seeming breakfast cereals, such as some varieties of raisin bran, have more than 350 milligrams of sodium per cup. Dietary guidelines say that people should consume no more than 2,400 milligrams a day.

Canned soup can have almost 1,000 milligrams of salt per one-cup serving, which is less than the amount people often eat as a serving. Even some low-sodium soups have about half that amount, which is still substantial, Glazewski says. Many canned vegetables contain 300-400 milligrams of sodium for a half-cup serving, she says, while fresh vegetables contain close to zero.

One thing to watch out for, ironically, is the low-calorie section of the frozen food aisle, she says. "If you're going to choose a light product, you have to be aware that some of the products that are lower in saturated fat and lower in calories may have just as much sodium or more than a comparable higher-fat, higher-calorie product,” Glazewski says.

In short, she says, look at the label and learn to be a smart consumer. And both Green and Glazewski note that looking at the label isn't always possible, such as when you're dining at a restaurant.; Source: University of Michigan Health System