Heart Health: 8 Low-Sodium Foods

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  • The Silent Killer

    The Silent Killer

    You have probably heard that eating too much salt can be harmful. Sometimes it is doing damage without you even realizing it. For example, too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, which is difficult for a person to detect, especially at first.

    Dr. Morton Tavel, professor emeritus at Indiana School of Medicine, says that at least one-third of Americans have high blood pressure. That number increases with age.

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  • Lower Sodium, Stronger Heart

    Lower Sodium, Stronger Heart

    Tavel says you should limit yourself to no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is just about the amount of sodium found in one teaspoon of salt. However, he says even a modest reduction, to 3,000 milligrams per day, can lead to better health.

    Tavel recommends choosing foods that are labeled “reduced sodium” or “no salt added.” Be sure to read labels, and choose foods that contain less than 5 percent of the recommended daily salt allowance.

    Lise Gloede, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, recommends several low-sodium food options in the next several slides.

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  • You Can’t Go Wrong with Veggies

    You Can’t Go Wrong with Veggies

    Fresh and frozen vegetables are naturally low in sodium (usually less than 50 milligrams per serving) so “load up on these,” Gloede says. “Be careful of canned vegetables and high salt salad dressings,” she warns.

    Instead, she recommends dressing up a salad with balsamic vinegar, and maybe adding shelled edamame, a low-sodium soybean. “It’s easy to throw on a salad and very nutritious.”

  • Potatoes and Potassium

    Potatoes and Potassium

    Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium, Gloede says. Tavel adds that if your diet is high in potassium, you don’t need to trim as much sodium from your diet (although you probably should).

    Want to jazz up your potatoes? Gloede suggest adding low-sodium salsa to a baked potato, or sprinkling some cinnamon on a sweet potato.

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  • Take Your Time Enjoying Some Nuts

    Take Your Time Enjoying Some Nuts

    Unsalted nuts in the shell are an excellent snack option, says Gloede, because they contain no sodium at all. The added bonus, she adds, is that it “takes longer to eat when you have to get them out of the shell, so it helps with not overeating them.”

    Popcorn can be a great low sodium treat, too. Pop it in an air popper yourself or on the stove with just a bit of olive oil.

  • Fruit is Nature’s Candy

    Fruit is Nature’s Candy

    Much like vegetables, fruits are naturally low in sodium. Apples, apricots, papayas, and pears are your best bets, along with bananas, which are also packed with heart-friendly potassium.

    Tavel suggests substituting fruit for the other sugars in your life. Have an apple instead of shortbread cookies, or some apricots instead of pork rinds.

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  • Yogurt Is Your Friend

    Yogurt Is Your Friend

    Yogurt is very low in sodium, Gloede says. Tavel suggests sticking to plain yogurt and avoiding flavored options, however, as they contain added sugar.

    Remember, plain yogurt doesn’t have to be bland. Throw in some fruit and you have a healthy, low-sodium treat that’ll do far less damage than ice cream, sherbet, or pie.

  • Beans and Grains

    Beans and Grains

    Beans and lentils, as well as grains, are all low in sodium, Tavel says. Grains such as oats can also help lower bad cholesterol and reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. Just be sure to use dried beans, or buy the low sodium variety of canned beans if you are buying canned foods.

    Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, which you can top with fruits, berries, and nuts. Incorporate rice and beans into your lunches and dinners. If you’re worried about blandness, Tavel recommends spicing up your meals with pepper, jalapeno extracts, hot sauces, onions, or lemon or lime juice.

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  • What Not to Eat

    What Not to Eat

    There are some foods you definitely want to avoid if you’re trying to reduce your sodium intake. Canned soups can be loaded with salt. Frozen dinners and packaged foods in general are usually high in sodium, too.

    Canned sauces and instant soups are also packed with sodium. In addition to being high in sugar, baked goods contain high levels of sodium because of the baking soda used to prepare them.

  • Low Sodium Can Go a Long Way

    Low Sodium Can Go a Long Way

    Sometimes a person is more likely to have high blood pressure because of genetic factors. Aging is another common cause of high blood pressure.

    Too much sodium in the diet can be unhealthy for people who already have high blood pressure, or who have suffered a heart attack. With a little creativity, however, reducing the amount of salt in your diet isn’t as difficult as it first may seem.

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References:

  • Davy, B., Davy, K., Ho, R., Beske, S., Davrath, L., & Melby, C. (2002, August). High-fiber oat cereal compared with wheat cereal consumption favorably alters LDL-cholesterol subclass and particle numbers in middle-aged and older men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(2), 351-358. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12145006
  • Lammert, A., Kratzsch, J., Selhorst, J., Humpert, P. M., Bierhaus, A., Birck, R., Kusterer, K., & Hammes, H. P. (2008, February). Clinical benefit of a short term dietary oatmeal intervention in patients with type 2 diabetes and severe insulin resistance: a pilot study. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes, 116(2), 132-134. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17151592
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