Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure

Salt - ''Sodium Chloride'' and High Blood Pressure Diet.

When most people think of salt, they think of shaking it on their food, or adding a pinch to cooking. It''s very important to try to get out of the habit of using salt in this way. But you also need to be careful about the salt you can''t see. Salt is also called sodium chloride, and it''s the sodium in salt that can be dangerous to your health.

Processed food is often high in Sodium

75% of the salt that we eat comes from processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, soups, sauces, ready meals and biscuits. Almost everyone eats some types of processed food during a noraml day. Even people who make all their own meals from scratch will usually buy foods such as bread and biscuits and these can be high in salt/sodium.

So, before you assume that you don''t eat too much salt, take a good look at what you''re buying, as well as how you use salt at home. Look for the word ''sodium'' on the labels, it comes in many forms.

Foods that are usually high in salt / Sodium

  • Baked beans
  • Biscuits - sweet and savoury
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Cooking sauces
  • Hot chocolate
  • Pizza
  • Ready meals
  • Soups
  • Tinned spaghetti
  • Tinned vegetables and pulses (with added salt)
  • Soy sauce
  • Stock cubes
  • Yeast extract
  • Anchovies
  • Bacon
  • Cheese
  • Chips / French Fries (if salt added)
  • Crisps / Potoato Chips
  • Gravy granules
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Pretzels
  • Salted and dry roasted nuts
  • Salted fish
  • Sausages
  • Smoked meat and fish

Bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits, cakes and meat products such as bacon, sausages and ham are some of the main sources of salt in people''s diet. (Breakfast cereals vary greatly in their salt/sodium content - so check the labels carefully.)

Some foods contain other forms of sodium, used as flavour enhancers and raising agents, such as ''monosodium glutamate'' and ''sodium bicarbonate''. You need to look out for sodium in ALL IT''S DIFFERENT TYPES.

If you know how much sodium is in a food, you can work out roughly the amount of salt it contains by multiplying the sodium by 2.5. So if a portion of food contains 1.2g sodium then it contains about 3g salt.

Checking food labels as you go round the Supermarket may be time consuming and boring, but once you''ve done it a few times it''ll become easier and quicker. The benefit of lowering your blood pressure is surely worth a few extra minutes while food shopping.

Save Money on Low Sodium Foods and Recipes more info here.

Use Herbs instead of Salt as part of a Low Sodium Diet

As part of a high blood pressure diet you should try to limit consumption of high-sodium processed foods and move to a low sodium foods based diet. Also, you should remove the salt shaker from the dinner table.

Use other herbs and spices instead of salt. Don''t add salt to your cooking, experiment with fresh and dried herbs, such as onions, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, black and red pepper, and onion and garlic powders. These will all add flavor to your diet without adding sodium.

If you''re used to foods that are high in salt, or you normally add lots of salt to your food, you will probably miss it when you first cut down. Your taste buds do become used to high levels of salt. But your taste buds will soon get used to eating less salt and in a few weeks you''ll start to enjoy food with less salt. Salt can hide some more subtle flavors, so you might prefer different foods with less salt when your taste buds have had time to adjust. (this is a little like stopping taking sugar in Tea / Coffee - at first they taste very bitter, but you soon get used to it.)

Try eating only fresh or frozen vegetables as part of a high blood pressure / low sodium diet. Canned vegetables often have a much higher sodium content.

Tips for Lowering Salt and Sodium in your Diet

Changing to a low sodium diet doesn''t have to mean your food will be bland. Here are some tips for keeping your meals appetizing while protecting yourself:

  • Buy fresh, plain frozen, or canned "with no salt added" vegetables.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, and lean meat, rather than canned or processed types.
  • Use herbs, spices, and salt-free seasoning blends in cooking and at the table.
  • Cook rice, pasta, and hot cereals without salt. Cut back on instant or flavored rice, pasta, and cereal mixes, which usually have added salt.
  • Choose "convenience" foods that are lower in sodium. Cut back on frozen dinners, mixed dishes such as pizza, packaged mixes, canned soups or broths, and salad dressings--these often have a lot of sodium.
  • Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some sodium.
  • When available, buy low- or reduced-sodium, or no-salt-added versions of foods.
  • Choose ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.

Low sodium foods to eat as part of a low sodium diet:

* Chicken and turkey (take off skin)
* Lean cuts of meat
* Fish: Fresh or frozen
* Skimmed or 1% milk, evaporated skim milk
* Cheese: lower or reduced in sodium
* Loaf breads, dinner rolls, English muffin, bagels, pita, and salt-free chips
* Cereals: some hot cereals and some ready-to-eat cold cereals lowest in sodium*
* Plain rice and noodles
* Fresh, frozen, or no salt added canned vegetables
* Fruits
* Soups: lower or reduced in sodium
* Margarine, vegetable oils
* Spices, herbs, and flavorings like oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt free seasoning blends, vinegar, and fruit juices

Choose to Eat Less Often:

* Hogmaws, ribs, and chitterlings
* Smoked or cured meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs, ham, corned beef, luncheon meats, and sausage
* Canned fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel**
* Buttermilk +
* Most cheese spreads and cheeses
* Salty chips, nuts, pretzels, or pork rinds
* Some cold (ready to eat) cereals highest in sodium, instant hot cereals
* Quick cooking rice and instant noodles, boxed mixes like rice, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, ++ and some frozen dinners, pot pies and pizza*
* Regular canned vegetables**
* Pickled foods like herring, pickles, relish, olives, or sauerkraut
* Regular canned soups, instant soups
* Butter, fatback, and salt pork
* Soy sauce, steak sauce, salad dressing, ketchup, barbecue sauce, garlic salt, onion salt, seasoned salts like lemon pepper, bouillon cubes, meat tenderizer, and monosodium glutamate (MSG)*

*Read the food label to choose those lower in sodium.
**Rinse canned fish or vegetables before using.
+Although buttermilk is high in sodium, 1 percent or skim buttermilk can be used in cooking to replace whole milk or fat.
++Modify cooking directions and prepare with less salt, if possible.

Myths about Salt / Sodium Chloride

Food has no flavour without salt / sodium

If you''re used to foods that are high in salt, or adding lots of salt to your food, you could miss it when you first cut down. This is because our taste buds get used to high levels of salt.

But our taste buds can get used to eating less salt in a few weeks and then you''re more likely to enjoy food with less salt, or without any salt at all. If a food contains lots of salt this can hide more subtle flavours, so you might prefer some foods with less salt when your taste buds have had time to adjust.

You can tell what foods are high in salt because they taste salty

Some foods that are high in salt don''t taste very salty. Sometimes this is because they have lots of sugar in them, for example some biscuits and breakfast cereals. Also, our taste buds get used to high levels of salt, so you might not notice the saltiness of some foods.

Only old people need to worry about how much salt they eat - FALSE

Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure at any age. It''s true that you have less chance of developing heart disease or stroke in your 20s or 30s than when you''re older. But if you have high blood pressure when you''re young, you''re still at greater risk than someone the same age with normal blood pressure.

Posh salt is better for you than table salt - FALSE

It doesn''t matter how expensive salt is, where it is from, or whether it comes in grains, crystals or flakes - it still contains sodium.

You need more salt in hot climates because you sweat so much - FALSE

We only lose a small amount of salt through sweat, even in extremely hot places. So there''s no need to eat more salt in hot climates. But it''s important to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

If I cut down on salt my body won''t have enough - FALSE

It''s actually very difficult to eat too little salt. This is because it''s in so many everyday foods, like breakfast cereals, ready meals, soups, sauces and biscuits. And people in some countries survive on a fraction of the amount of salt eaten by people in the UK.

I would know if I had high blood pressure - FALSE

Many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms, so you can''t assume that your blood pressure is normal if you haven''t had it tested. In England, a third of people (31.7% of men and 29.5% of women) have high blood pressure.