Hidden salt and high blood pressure
We hear a lot about how getting too much salt (or sodium) will increase your blood pressure. In response a lot of people will sprinkle less salt on their meals or stop using salt altogether. Yet the high blood pressure remains. Why?
Is salt really responsible for high blood pressure?
Firstly, there’s some question over whether salt consumption really is directly related to high blood pressure. A lot of studies have shown an association between consuming more salt and having higher blood pressure. However, quite a few studies have not found this association. Similarly, studies into salt intake and heart disease give very mixed results. So whether getting excessive salt is a clear cause of high blood pressure (and related problems like heart disease) is more controversial than it might appear.
See the references at the bottom of this page if you want to read more about this issue.
Multiple causes of high blood pressure
Secondly, it’s important to point out that high blood pressure has a lot of causes such as stress, genetics, high cholesterol, genetics, etc. If too much salt is the main cause of your hypertension then cutting down on salt should lower your blood pressure. But for many of us it’s simply not enough. We need to incorporate a range of healthy measures into our daily lives.
It’s also worth pointing out that salt affects people and their blood pressure differently. Some people display a high ‘sodium intolerance’ which means that their bodies can not tolerate the same salt levels as others without developing negative symptoms such as elevated blood pressure. However, the majority of us do not suffer from sodium intolerance – but that’s not the same thing as saying we can consume all the salt we want with no ill effects. Moderation is always the key when it comes to salt.
How much salt is safe?
The recommended intake of sodium a day per adult is below 2.3 grams – although 1.5 or less grams is considered safer. By the way, there is approximately 2.3 grams of sodium in 1 teaspoon of table salt.
However, probably very few of us sprinkle more than this a day on our meals with a salt shaker. I would suspect that very few of us would even reach 1 gram a day with the shaker. Even 1 gram is a lot of shaking.
Hidden salt and high blood pressure
We overdose on salt not with the shaker but with the salt content hidden in a lot of food we buy. There’s a strong link between hidden salt and high blood pressure. I’m not just talking about fast food, restaurant food, or highly processed ‘treats’ like crisps / chips. Take your everyday white sliced bread for example. On average there is 0.17 grams of sodium in each slice (that’s about 12% of the 1.5 grams already). Have a few slices, with salted butter and a preserve and you are soon exceeding your daily recommended salt intake – without ever touching the salt shaker.
Many breakfast cereals are also another high salt food meal that we normally would consider healthy. So what’s one to do?
How to avoid hidden salt – and high blood pressure
First, shop for food wisely and don’t buy heavily processed foods that contain a lot of sodium, or other unhealthy ingredients (foods high in added sugar also raise your blood pressure). Most importantly, go back to basics and prepare more meals yourself from simple unprocessed food. For example, you could easily learn to bake bread and control the amount salt, if any, you care to put in. Or have a tasty bowl of oats for breakfast instead of a ready-made breakfast cereal.
Get your salt and potassium levels back in balance
Another thing you can do is make sure to be eating plenty foods that are rich in potassium. Potassium acts as a balancer to sodium, and there’s good evidence that having the correct ratio of potassium and
sodium is more important than the levels of these minerals separately. As such, getting enough potassium is as least as important for healthy blood pressure as reducing salt, if not more so.
If you get into cooking more of your meals yourself, then you’ll naturally be getting more potassium and less salt anyway. This is because many natural whole foods are rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, pulses, unprocessed meats and some fish. They’re also naturally low in salt. On the other hand, highly processed foods are not only often high in added salt but are usually low in potassium. So eating more self-prepared natural foods is a win-win situation.
All salt is not created equal
If you do this you can get out the old salt shaker and start using it again. After all it’s good to have some salt in your diet. If you lived solely on a diet of fresh food prepared yourself, without adding any salt, you could actually suffer salt deprivation.
Personally I like salt, good salt that is, genuine harvested sea salt from the shores of Brittany – Sel de Guerande. Unlike the bleached chemical sodium available in stores, genuine sea salt is a light grayish color, full of all the trace elements and nutrients from the sea. It cost more (around $14 for a 1,000 grams) but a kilogram should last for many years.
This kind of natural salt (natural rock salt is also a good option) is far more nutritious than regular table salt. Regular table salt is actually highly processed – firstly it’s stripped of its natural trace elements and minerals, and then it’s mixed with various chemicals (including bleaching agents) to make it bright white and easy to pour. It’s also dried at extremely high temperatures and this also alters the chemical structure of the salt, and not in a good way. The salt added to take-out foods and ready-made foods is also highly processed.
This modern salt doesn’t bear much resemblance to naturally harvested salt. And what’s interesting is that we (in Western societies) used to consume far more salt – in previous centuries when salt was widely used to preserve food. Since refrigeration became common in the 1930s and 1940s, salt has been used much less and salt consumption has fallen. Yet in this time health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease have risen. Is it because of the rise in processed foods with their hidden processed salts?
So there you have it. Don’t be a victim of overconsumption of hidden salt in common foods. It’s easy to stop being a victim of hidden salt and high blood pressure. Choose low salt varieties or prepare food yourself. You’ll then be able to enjoy salt on your food again in much smaller and healthier quantities.
Look for Sel de Guerande in your local health food shops, or you can buy it from Amazon online.
Lower your blood pressure naturally
To find out more about how to get a healthier balance of salt and potassium in your diet, have a look at our guide to lowering your blood pressure naturally. It contains lots of tips on how to gradually and painlessly move to eating (and drinking) more healthily, and reducing your blood pressure in the process.
Of course there are other factors beyond diet (like fitness and stress) that affect your blood pressure. So the best way to lower your blood pressure without drugs is to apply a broader approach – covering all causes and cures with natural home-based remedies.
These progressive steps are based on the principle that positive incremental change is always best in health matters.
Each chapter will take you further along the road of greater vigour and peace of mind (and a healthy blood pressure).
Click on the link below for more information:
P.S. This guide shows you how to lower your blood pressure permanently and naturally without side-effects or complications.
Follow each step to get your blood pressure back in balance.
Choose between a wide range of delicious foods that reduce your blood pressure. Include a number of mental and physical exercises in your schedule for both relaxation and invigoration.
Following this guide will reduce, and in time, eliminate your need for blood pressure lowering medications.
This is a guide for good healthy living and will be beneficial for all – even if you don’t currently suffer from high blood pressure.
To download a sample of the guide to your computer right now click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link.
Hidden salt and high blood pressure: some references
Overview of clinical studies into salt and health:
It’s time to end the war on salt (Scientific American)
Debunking the salt myth (Mercola.com)
What America can learn from the UK’s massive sodium experiment (The Washington Post)
On health effects of different kinds of salt:
Is salt really the villain it’s been made out to be? (Mercola.com)
And our own articles (on this website):