Sodium Shockers: Beware of these Foods (cont.)

He says his study, which was published in the March American Journal of Medicine, doesn't mean that everyone should abandon the low-sodium diet right away. He does say, though, that researchers need to ask if the current recommendations are truly useful for everyone -- and whether a low-sodium diet might even have negative effects on health.

Not so fast, says Jeffrey Cutler, MD, a scientific advisor at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute who has studied high blood pressure.

"There's an immense body of evidence that links salt to high blood pressure," Cutler says. High blood pressure is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. What's more, people who eat a salt-laden diet don't just have high blood pressure to worry about. They may also be courting osteoporosis, kidney stones, and -- as seen in some Asian countries -- even stomach cancer, he says.

"When you look at all the evidence, the balance is still for the low-sodium diet," Cutler says.

Are there any other tips for staying within the 2,300 milligram-limit per day? Try these:

  • Take the salt shaker off the table.
  • Don't add salt to dishes as you're cooking. Instead, try herbs and sodium-free spices.
  • Use fresh or frozen foods instead of canned foods. If you buy canned products, look for low-sodium or unsalted ones.
  • When you eat out, ask that your meal be prepared without sodium sources, such as salt, soy sauce, and monosodium glutamate.
  • Keep a daily record of how much sodium you eat and drink.

And last, when you shake the sodium habit, don't start complaining too early that your unsalted oatmeal tastes like glue, Yurczyk says. "Salt is an acquired taste. It takes three weeks to get over it and then you get used to the natural taste of food."

Published April 3, 2006.

SOURCES: Hillel Cohen, DrPH, associate professor of epidemiology and population health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Jeffrey Cutler, MD, scientific advisor to the director of the division of epidemiology and clinical applications, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Rosemary Yurczyk, MS, RD, CDE, University of California Davis Medical Center. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, release 18. Cohen, H., American Journal of Medicine, March 2006; vol 119(3): pp 275.e7-275.e14.

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