You can have your cake and eat it too — well at least you can lower your blood pressure and have your salt too. That is what recent research is telling us about sodium’s role in managing blood pressure. Hypertension, it turns out, is not caused by too much salt. Neither is it lowered by simply cutting salt out of your diet. So how is it that table salt (sodium) is still getting such a bad rap and being linked to high blood pressure? The real culprit it turns out is not salt, but how your body manages sodium and its proportion to the amount of potassium, calcium and magnesium in your body.
Scientists have discovered that deficiencies in potassium, calcium and magnesium have a much greater impact on blood pressure than the mineral salt. These other minerals are so important in controlling blood pressure that when they are out of balance with each other, they can make salt more of a threat to healthy blood pressure.
The fact is that only about 10 percent of the population is considered “salt sensitive.” It is this relatively small group that has to watch their salt intake for a variety of reasons, including its impact on blood pressure.
There are some easy ways to make sure all of the important minerals in your body are in balance. These include:
1. Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. This will ensure that you are getting a wide range of nutrients and not just one or two key elements.
2. Making sure you get enough calcium — 2000 mg per day. Calcium is essential to bone density, but in relationship to blood pressure, it is believed that low calcium levels can actually cause high blood pressure. Calcium is a natural diuretic, so when salt is consumed, even larger quantities, having enough calcium signals the kidneys to get rid of the excess sodium. Also, calcium prevents a certain hormone that raises blood pressure from being released and doing its damage.
3. Getting plenty of potassium. Studies have shown that diets high in potassium and lower in sodium can prevent many diseases and keep blood pressure lower. On the other hand, when there is much more sodium than potassium, blood pressure goes up. Balance the two, and you can make great strides in controlling hypertension.
Here are some food suggestions for getting enough of these essential minerals:
Calcium — Aside from dairy products, which can be high in fat and hard on the digestive system, broccoli, spinach, and salmon are good sources.
Magnesium — Foods such as whole grains, nuts and black beans will help you get the beneficial 400-800 mg daily of magnesium.
Potassium — bananas, potatoes, orange juice, and cantaloupe all provide potassium. Potassium is the most substantiated mineral in controlling blood pressure.
When even good food choices leave you feeling you are lacking in important minerals, supplements can pick up the slack. Whether through food choices or supplements, getting enough minerals into your diet is necessary to counteract the impact of sodium in the battle with high blood pressure.
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