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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ease into lower-sodium eating plan

Anthony L. Komaroff Universal Uclick

DEAR DOCTOR K: My blood pressure has been creeping up lately, so my doctor suggested I reduce the amount of salt in my diet. Where should I start?

DEAR READER: That’s good advice – and it’s good advice for most people, especially for people with high blood pressure. Cutting back on salt (sodium chloride) lowers blood pressure and saves lives. Aim to limit your daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams (about a teaspoon) per day.

How do you do that? Start reading food labels to find out how much sodium is in the foods you eat. That’s the easy part. Of course, if you’re eating out, it’s harder.

Some chain restaurant and fast-food meals can top 5,000 milligrams of sodium per serving – that’s more than an entire day’s recommended sodium intake. Check restaurant websites for sodium information, or ask your server to steer you to low-salt choices.

Watch out for hidden sodium, too. Some foods that are high in sodium may not taste especially salty. Examples include breakfast cereals, bakery muffins, and energy and sports drinks.

Avoid processed and prepared foods such as cold cuts and canned vegetables. These are the biggest sources of sodium in our diets. Choose fresh and minimally processed foods instead.

If you can’t eliminate processed foods entirely, then compare brands to find the ones with the least sodium. There’s a surprising amount of variation from brand to brand.

Retrain your taste buds to enjoy foods with less sodium. Reduce salt gradually and consistently, rather than trying to cut back by a large amount all at once.

We have more information on preventing high blood pressure in our Special Health Report, “Hypertension: Controlling the Silent Killer.” You can find out more about it at my website.

Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. Go to his website to send questions and get additional information: