A Teaspoon of Prevention: The Remarkable Impact of Reducing Salt on Blood Pressure

Understanding the Scale of Hypertension

In the United States alone, an astonishing 61.9 million adults are prescribed medication to manage their blood pressure, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hypertension, or high blood pressure, remains a leading health concern globally. But what if a simple dietary change could offer similar benefits to medication? Our primary care doctors in Jupiter want you to know about what an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests.

The Study: Salt Reduction Equals Medication?

Conducted by a team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Northwestern Medicine, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the study observed 213 individuals aged 50 to 75. The participants’ diets were closely monitored, including a week on a low-sodium diet and another on a high-sodium regimen. Surprisingly, reducing salt intake by about one teaspoon a day (equivalent to 2,300 mg of sodium) showed a significant decrease in blood pressure, comparable to the effects of standard blood pressure medication.

Key Findings and Implications

  1. Broad Effectiveness: Dr. Deepak Gupta of VUMC noted that the blood pressure reduction was consistent across various groups – those with normal, controlled, untreated, and uncontrolled hypertension.
  2. Rapid Results: The participants experienced a notable drop in blood pressure within just a week of following the low-sodium diet.
  3. Public Health Impact: Dr. Cora Lewis emphasized the potential widespread benefits, considering the global prevalence of hypertension.
  4. No Side Effects: Dr. Bradley Serwer, reviewing the study, highlighted the advantage of dietary changes over medication, notably the lack of side effects.

The Role of Sodium in Hypertension

Sodium plays a crucial role in maintaining blood pressure levels. It attracts water, leading to increased fluid volume in the bloodstream and, consequently, higher blood pressure. This increased pressure adds strain to the heart, underscoring the importance of managing sodium intake.

Recommendations and Conclusion

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This study’s findings reinforce the significance of dietary control in managing blood pressure, even for those already on medication. As hypertension contributes to a range of severe health issues and remains a leading risk factor for death worldwide, reducing salt intake could be a key strategy in improving global health outcomes. As Dr. Gupta puts it, preventing hypertension is crucial for longer, healthier lives. This study demonstrates that sometimes, less is more – especially when it comes to salt.

Understanding the Link Between Red Meat and Type 2 Diabetes Risk

A groundbreaking study has recently highlighted a significant health concern: the consumption of red meat and its correlation with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on October 19, has sparked crucial conversations about dietary choices and chronic disease prevention. Our primary care doctors in Jupiter want you to stay up to date with the latest information.

In-Depth Study Analysis
The study, meticulously conducted over several decades, involved monitoring the dietary habits of over 200,000 individuals starting in 1980. Participants provided detailed information about their diets through validated questionnaires, which were updated every four years. Alongside dietary data, the researchers also considered factors such as physical activity, smoking habits, and other potential risk factors to ensure a comprehensive analysis.

Alarming Findings
The findings were striking: among the participants, more than 22,000 developed type 2 diabetes. Walter C. Willet, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and one of the study authors, conveyed the essence of these findings. He noted a clear trend: the higher the consumption of red meat, the greater the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A Silver Lining: Dietary Replacements
However, the study also sheds light on a path to better health. According to Willet, replacing red meat with plant-based protein sources—such as nuts, soy foods, and beans—or modest amounts of dairy, can significantly lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Notably, this substitution strategy is more effective than replacing red meat with sugar or refined grains.

Reproducible and Detailed Findings
This study isn’t the first to link red meat consumption with type 2 diabetes risk, but it stands out for its detailed analysis of the amount of red meat that could minimize this risk. The research corroborates existing dietary recommendations to limit red meat intake and highlights the benefits of alternative protein sources.

Practical Advice for Lowering Diabetes Risk
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all dietary solution to eliminate the risk of type 2 diabetes, Willet emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to health. He recommends:

  • Keeping red meat intake low.
  • Minimizing consumption of soda and sugary beverages.
  • Choosing whole grains over refined grains.
  • Opting for liquid plant oils as fat sources.
  • Eating ample fruits and vegetables.
  • Regular physical activity.
  • Weight control and avoiding smoking.
  • Adopting these practices can potentially prevent about 90% of type 2 diabetes cases, indicating that the current epidemic is largely preventable.

This study serves as a crucial reminder of the power of dietary choices in influencing our long-term health. By understanding the risks associated with red meat consumption and making mindful food substitutions, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes. As we navigate a world filled with various food options, studies like these empower us to make informed decisions for a healthier future.

Spinach vs. Kale: Nutritionists Settle the Great Debate

When it comes to powerhouse greens, spinach, and kale are the heavyweights of the vegetable world. Both are lauded for their extensive nutritional profiles and health benefits, which has led to a great debate: between spinach and kale, which is truly ‘better’ for you? Our concierge doctors in Jupiter dive into what nutritionists have to say.

Nutritional Profiles
Kale is often dubbed as a superfood, and for good reason. It’s packed with vitamins A, K, C, and B6, as well as minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It also contains antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol.

Spinach is another nutrient-dense leafy green. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, K1, as well as several B vitamins. It also offers a good amount of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Additionally, spinach is known for its high levels of folate and carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.

Health Benefits
Both greens offer a slew of health benefits, including but not limited to:

Anti-inflammatory properties: The antioxidants present in both kale and spinach can help reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Heart health: The fiber, potassium, and vitamin content in both may support heart health.
  • Bone health: High levels of vitamin K are essential for bone health, which both of these greens provide in spades.
  • Eye health: Carotenoids found in both may reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Cancer prevention: The compounds found in both kale and spinach have been associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers.

The Great Debate: Which is Better?
The term “better” is subjective and can depend on individual nutritional needs and taste preferences. Here’s what nutritionists consider when settling this debate:

Caloric Content
If you’re looking for fewer calories, spinach is slightly lower in calories than kale. However, the difference is minimal.

Iron and Calcium
Spinach offers more iron per serving, which can be crucial for individuals with iron-deficiency anemia. However, the type of iron in spinach is non-heme iron, which is not absorbed as well as the iron found in animal products. Kale offers more calcium per serving, which is beneficial for bone health, particularly for those who do not consume dairy.

Vitamin K
Kale has a significantly higher amount of vitamin K than spinach. This is beneficial for blood clotting and bone metabolism. However, for individuals taking blood thinners, this may require consideration and consultation with a healthcare provider.

Spinach is high in oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stones in susceptible individuals. If you’re at risk for kidney stones, kale might be the better option.

Flavor and Culinary Uses
From a culinary standpoint, spinach has a milder flavor and can be easily incorporated into smoothies, salads, and dishes without overpowering other flavors. Kale’s robust texture and slightly bitter taste might be less versatile for some palates and recipes.

Accessibility and Sustainability
Spinach tends to be more widely available in various forms – fresh, frozen, canned – and can be easier to prepare, while kale can sometimes be harder to find in certain regions and seasons.

The Verdict
Nutritionists lean away from declaring an absolute winner. Both spinach and kale are champions in their own right, and incorporating a variety of greens into your diet is the best way to ensure a wide range of nutrients. It’s not about which one is better, but rather how each can best serve your individual health needs and culinary preferences.

In conclusion, spinach and kale are both nutritious and beneficial to include in your diet. Instead of choosing one over the other, you might consider rotating them in your meals to reap the diverse benefits each has to offer. And as always, when making significant changes to your diet, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, particularly if you have underlying health conditions.

Remember, when it comes to nutrition, variety is key – there’s plenty of room on your plate for both of these leafy greens. So, why not enjoy the best of both worlds?

The Mediterranean Diet: A Time-Tested Solution for Age-Related Weight Gain

Every so often, the world gets abuzz with a new diet trend that promises to revolutionize weight loss and health. With each new fad, there’s a growing chorus of critics and supporters, each with their list of reasons why their chosen method is superior. But amidst this ever-changing landscape of health advice, there are certain dietary guidelines that have stood the test of time and our primary care doctors in Jupiter are here to bring you the latest findings.

One such diet that has been making waves for decades, for all the right reasons, is the Mediterranean diet.

Recently, a study titled “Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea-Plus” (PREDIMED-Plus) was published in the JAMA Network Open on Oct. 18. Though initially aimed at gauging the efficacy of the Mediterranean diet in combating cardiovascular disease, it revealed some fascinating insights about the diet’s impact on body composition over a three-year span.

Unpacking the PREDIMED-Plus Study

The study recruited a total of 1,521 participants, all middle-aged or older. These participants were either overweight, obese, or suffered from metabolic syndrome. They were divided into two distinct groups:

  1. Group 1: Followed a Mediterranean diet with a 30% reduction in their calorie intake and an increase in physical activity.
  2. Group 2: Followed a Mediterranean diet without any calorie restrictions or changes in physical activity.

After three years, the findings were rather illuminating. Those in the first group exhibited “clinically meaningful” changes in their body composition. This included a remarkable 5% (or greater) improvement in fat mass, visceral (belly) fat mass, and even a reduction in the loss of lean muscle mass after only one year.

The Mediterranean Diet: More than Just Heart Health

While the Mediterranean diet’s benefits for heart health are well-documented, the PREDIMED-Plus study showcases its potential as a potent weapon against age-related weight gain and muscle deterioration. This diet, rooted in the traditional eating patterns of the Mediterranean region, emphasizes:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins like fish and poultry
  • Nuts and legumes
  • Olive oil as the primary fat source
  • Minimal red meat and processed foods

What’s particularly captivating about this study is the synergy between the diet and physical activity. When combined, they create a potent mix that effectively combats the challenges our bodies face as we age.


The PREDIMED-Plus study serves as a stark reminder of the timeless wisdom embedded in traditional eating patterns. While the world continues its quest for the next big diet trend, the Mediterranean diet, complemented by regular physical activity, offers a robust, evidence-based solution to age-related health challenges.

So, as you navigate the myriad of dietary advice available today, remember that sometimes, the best solutions are the ones that have been with us for generations.

Improve Your Nutrition with these Simple Steps 

Nutrition plays a crucial role in providing the necessary nutrients for our bodies to function properly. These essential nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates provide energy, proteins are vital for tissue growth and repair, fats contribute to insulation and organ protection, while vitamins and minerals are required for various bodily functions, such as building strong bones, maintaining a healthy immune system, and supporting heart and brain health.

A balanced and healthy diet, consisting of a variety of foods from different food groups, ensures that our bodies receive all the necessary nutrients. Proper nutrition not only helps to maintain healthy body weight but also reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. On the other hand, a poor diet lacking essential nutrients can lead to malnutrition and various health problems. Therefore, good nutrition is essential for overall health and well-being.

There are several ways to improve your nutrition, including:

  • Encouraging a balanced diet: Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients for the body to function properly.
  • Ensuring adequate hydration: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, which can lead to health problems.
  • Providing smaller, more frequent meals: Instead of large meals, consider offering smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, especially for adults. This ensures they receive the necessary nutrients without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Offering nutrient-dense snacks: Opt for nutrient-dense snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These snacks boost energy levels and provide essential nutrients.

In conclusion, in addition to prioritizing good nutrition, it is beneficial to seek guidance and support from primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter. These healthcare professionals specialize in personalized care and can offer valuable insights and recommendations tailored to individual needs. Collaborating with primary care doctors can further enhance one’s journey toward optimal nutrition and overall health. By combining their expertise with the principles of a balanced diet, hydration, and nutrient-dense snacks, individuals can receive comprehensive care that addresses their unique requirements and fosters long-term well-being. Together, the commitment to sound nutrition and the assistance of primary care concierge doctors empower patients to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

Why is Elderly Nutrition So Important?

If our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter could choose the most important thing for elderly care, it would be nutrition. Elderly nutrition is crucial because as we age, our bodies undergo changes that make it more challenging to obtain the nutrients we need to stay healthy.  

Older Age Means More Changes

As we age, our metabolism slows down, our digestive system becomes less efficient, and our senses of taste and smell may diminish, which leads to a reduced appetite and a decreased interest in eating.

Additionally, older adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, which can all be affected by diet. Proper nutrition can help manage these conditions, prevent complications, and improve overall quality of life.

Get the Good Stuff

Good nutrition is essential for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, which can help prevent falls and fractures. A balanced diet that includes adequate protein, calcium, and vitamin D is crucial for older adults to maintain strong bones and muscles.

Elderly nutrition is essential for several reasons:

  1. Health: Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, especially as we age. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups helps to provide the necessary nutrients for good health, such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  2. Chronic Diseases: Good nutrition can help prevent or manage chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, which are more common in older adults.
  3. Immune System: Adequate nutrition is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, which can help protect against infectious diseases and illnesses.
  4. Mental health: Good nutrition impacts mental health, such as reducing the risk of depression and cognitive decline.
  5. Quality of Life: Proper nutrition can improve the quality of life for older adults by increasing energy levels, maintaining a healthy weight, and improving overall physical and mental well-being.

Overall, elderly nutrition is essential for maintaining good health, preventing chronic diseases, and improving the quality of life in older adults. 

Are Veggie Burgers Really Healthier?

Our primary care doctors in Jupiter are always asked whether veggie burgers are healthier than traditional meat-based burgers. The answer is, that it truly depends on various factors, such as the specific ingredients used to make the veggie burger and the way it is prepared.

The Facts

Generally speaking, veggie burgers are typically lower in saturated fat and calories than beef burgers, which can be beneficial for heart health and weight management. Many veggie burgers are also a good source of dietary fiber and plant-based protein, which can help support digestive health and muscle growth.

Don’t Let the Freezer Fool You

However, it’s worth noting that not all veggie burgers are created equal. Some store-bought veggie burgers can be high in sodium, added sugars, and artificial ingredients, which can detract from their overall health benefits. Additionally, veggie burgers made from highly processed ingredients may not be as nutrient-dense as whole food-based options.

Ultimately, whether a veggie burger is healthier than a meat-based burger will depend on the specific ingredients used and how it is prepared. As with any food, it’s important to consider the overall nutritional profile and quality of ingredients when making choices about what to eat.

More Variety

Whether you’re a vegetarian, a vegan, or just someone who enjoys a good plant-based meal, veggie burgers are a great option that are both tasty and nutritious.

One of the great things about veggie burgers is their versatility. There are so many different kinds of veggie burgers available today, ranging from classic black bean burgers to more adventurous options like quinoa and mushroom burgers. They can be made with a wide variety of ingredients, including beans, lentils, mushrooms, tofu, and even vegetables like sweet potatoes and zucchini.

Veggie burgers are not only delicious, but they’re also a healthier option than traditional meat burgers. They’re lower in saturated fat and calories, and they’re packed with fiber and other essential nutrients. Plus, they’re better for the environment, as producing meat has a much larger carbon footprint than producing plant-based foods.

No matter which means option you choose, just remember that veggie burgers are a delicious and healthy option that’s worth exploring!

Water Flavor Social Media Trend: Healthy?

Now that summer is officially here, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter want to bring to your attention the new “water trend” trending all over social media. 

In recent years, a new trend has emerged on social media: adding flavorings to water in order to make it more appealing and encourage people to drink more of it. This trend has been popularized by influencers and fitness enthusiasts who promote the idea that adding flavors to water can help individuals to stay hydrated and improve their overall health. However, the question remains: is this trend healthy?

It is Not That Easy

The answer is not straightforward. On the one hand, adding natural flavorings to water can make it more palatable, which may encourage individuals to drink more water throughout the day. Drinking enough water is crucial for maintaining optimal health, as it helps to regulate body temperature, prevent dehydration, and support proper digestion and elimination.

On the other hand, many commercial flavorings that are marketed for adding to water contain added sugars and artificial sweeteners. These ingredients can contribute to the overconsumption of calories, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, artificial sweeteners have been linked to a range of health concerns, including disruption of gut microbiota, increased risk of metabolic disorders, and even cancer.

Moreover, some natural flavorings, such as fruit juices and honey, can also contain high amounts of sugar. While these may be healthier than artificial sweeteners, they should still be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Healthy Flavorful Alternatives

Ultimately, the key to making water more appealing and encouraging adequate hydration is to find a flavoring that is healthy and fits your individual dietary needs. Some healthy options for flavoring water include adding slices of fresh fruit, such as lemon, lime, or cucumber, or infusing water with herbs like mint or basil. These natural flavorings can provide a burst of flavor without adding unnecessary calories or artificial sweeteners.

In conclusion, while adding flavorings to water can be a useful tool for staying hydrated, it is important to choose healthy options that do not contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners. By making this choice, you can reap the benefits of proper hydration without compromising your overall health and well-being.

Free-Range, Cage-Free, Organic: What Do Meat and Egg Labels Mean?

Our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter know that these days our patients are interested in not just their own health, but also the health of the planet and the welfare of animals. So you try to shop in ways that consciously take all these factors into consideration.

But how do you know what the many bewildering grocery store labels mean? Let us help sort out some of the confusion.

Win-win Practices

According to Treehugger.com, so-called humane farming practices are no more sustainable than those of factory-farmed meats, because the animals raised for food require just as much food and water as those in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

On the other hand, as the Cleveland Clinic points out, many of these CAFOs use more chemicals and fertilizers that pollute both the land and water sources, so they’re not as earth-friendly as traditional farming practices.

We’ve often extolled the health advantages of plant-based diets, however, so for now we’ll just say that the fewer meats and meat products you consume, the better for the planet (and your health).

The good thing about taking animal welfare into your buying decisions, however, is that you benefit, as well.

“The alternative to factory-farm meat—grass-fed meat—is not just better for the environment and better for the animals, but better for you, too,” says the Cleveland Clinic’s Functional Medicine Director Mark Hyman.

Grass-fed meat is so nutritionally superior to factor-farmed meat, he adds, that is practically a different food.

Animals raised without antibiotics are another health plus for humans because their rampant use can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it harder to treat our own infections.

Sorting Out Labels

Unfortunately, knowing their customers are interested in more humanely raised foods, many manufacturers select labels that may tend to mislead buyers.

For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not regulate the term “pasture-raised.” “Humane” is also not an official term, so it can mean anything.

Consumer Reports (CR) says that the claim “no growth hormones” doesn’t mean the animal was not given antibiotics, or that hogs were not given a non-hormonal growth enhancer called ractopamine. On the other hand, beef labels that say “no hormones” are useful, because cattle can be raised with hormones; however, the USDA does not allow hormones to be used in poultry or pork.

In addition, labels that say “no growth-promoting antibiotics” can also be misleading, because they can still be given to “ensure animal health” or to prevent or control disease, CR says.

Likewise, “natural” simply means that meat has been minimally processed and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients such as chemical preservatives, spices or sauces, or artificial coloring. As Insider reports, a “natural” egg is simply a real egg that came from a real hen.

Similarly, “farm fresh” means nothing: All meat and eggs come from farms, whether in bucolic outdoor settings or cramped cages on CAFOs. And “Omega-3” doesn’t tell you whether the eggs contain enough of this essential fatty acid.

What They Mean

The labels manufacturers use can be baffling, so here’s a quick guide to the most common meat and egg labels.


  • Grass-fed: This term gets a little tricky. The USDA’s definition means the meat must come from animals that have never been given grain and have access to pasture during the grazing season. According to CR, however, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) does not inspect these farms, and they can still be raised with antibiotics or hormones.
  • In addition, grass-fed cattle still may not have continuous access to pasture and may spend at least a part of their lives confined to a feedlot.
  • Organic: This is a more reliable term because the USDA organic seal indicates that the animal was given only organic feed, and was not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Even sick animals that were treated with antibiotics can no longer legally be labeled “organic.”
  • Pasture-raised: Again, this term can be misleading, because many meat producers will use it if their cows were only periodically allowed brief access to the outdoors.


  • Cage-free: This means hens are not kept in cages, but that doesn’t mean they’re allowed outdoor access. In fact, they can still be raised in crowded (read: “overcrowded”) conditions indoors.
  • Free-range: This means the animals have at least some access to the outdoors, and aren’t caged, but they still may be raised primarily in crowded conditions.
  • Organic: These eggs come from hens that haven’t been fed grains grown with GMOs or synthetic pesticides. In addition, they aren’t raised in cages and must be given outdoor access. Again, though, “outdoor access” can still mean being confined in cramped conditions on tiny concrete porches.
  • Pasture-raised: Although there’s no standard definition for this term if the egg label contains either the Certified Humane or American Humane Certified pasture-raised labels, it means the hens must have access to a pasture with room for natural behaviors, such as pecking for bugs and seeds.

How to be Sure

As Vox reports, “For the grocery shopper buying animal products, the independent rating programs created by advocacy programs are the most important labels to look out for, since they actually have auditing systems built in to hold producers accountable.”

These certification labels include “GAP-Certified,” “Certified Humane,” and “Animal Welfare Approved.”

Finally, remember that what’s best for animal welfare is usually best for our health, as well.

We’re Still Consuming Too Much Salt, WHO Warns

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter often caution our patients about their salt intake, but now a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) appears to lend new weight to that advice.

Unless governments act to restrict the salt content in our food, seven million people will die unnecessarily from diseases linked to excessive salt consumption, the WHO warned last month.

“Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death and disease globally, and excessive sodium intake is one of the main culprits,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysesus said in a statement.

“This report shows that most countries are yet to adopt any mandatory sodium reduction policies, leaving their people at risk of heart attack, stroke, and other health problems,” he added.

The Damage Salt Does

“Excessive sodium intake is the top risk factor for an unhealthy diet, and it is responsible for 1.8 million deaths each year,” Francesco Branca, director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, explained.

“This is really something that doesn’t cost money to anybody,” he said. “It’s a simple intervention, but it’s incredibly effective.”

Science has known for decades that too much salt is harmful.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says, “[T]he science behind sodium reduction is clear. Significant evidence links excess sodium intake with high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.”

“Sodium,” by the way, is not the same as salt. Salt, or sodium chloride, is a crystal-like compound that is abundant in nature. Sodium is a mineral, and one of the chemical elements found in salt. Nevertheless, most people tend to use the two words interchangeably.

“If you retain more salt in the body, it slowly puts up the blood pressure,” Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Queen Mary University of London, told The Washington Post.

“That raised blood pressure then causes strokes, heart attacks, or heart failure,” he explained. MacGregor was not involved in the study, but campaigns in favor of reducing salt intake.

History of Salt

Humans have used salt since ancient times, to preserve food as well as to flavor it. Cities around the world sprang up near sources of salt, according to Wikipedia.

But we’re getting too much of a good thing. The average American today consumes 55 percent more salt than in 1980, large thanks to the proliferation of processed foods.

When food began to be mass-produced, manufacturers quickly discovered that salt not only preserved their products longer and enhanced the flavor of less-flavorful foods, but also caused consumers to crave more of it.

At least one 2016 study on mice by Australian researchers appeared to identify the opioid system in the central amygdala region of the brain as the mechanism linked to our addiction to salt, the same pathway responsible for our addiction to drugs.

“It wasn’t until now known that our natural opioids working in this emotional hotspot drove salt cravings,” neuroscientist Craig Smith of the Florey and Deakin University, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

So salt begets a desire for more salt, and manufacturers are happy to comply. It’s far cheaper to add loads of salt to a product than to use more expensive herbs and spices. 

The Scoop on Salt

There’s no denying that we need a certain amount of salt to live. To maintain bodily functions, we require approximately 500 milligrams per day.

Moderate amounts of sodium also help maintain the extracellular fluid necessary for the cells’ function. Without adequate sodium, the body’s fluids would dehydrate, resulting in low blood pressure and death.

The current dietary guidelines recommend 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The AHA recommends even less (about 1,500 milligrams) for those at risk of heart disease. This includes adults ages 51 and older, Blacks, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Most Americans, however, consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sodium attracts water, and a high-sodium diet draws water into the bloodstream, thus increasing the volume of blood and subsequently your blood pressure.

Over time, high blood pressure (hypertension) injures blood pressure walls, leading to the build-up of plaque that blocks blood flow. Because hypertension causes the heart to work too hard, the high force of blood flow can harm arteries and organs throughout the body (heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes).

How to Cut Back

According to the AHA, more than 70 percent of the sodium we consume comes from packaged and restaurant foods.

“That can make it hard to control how much sodium you eat because it’s added to your food before you buy it,” the organization says.

Nevertheless, there are things you can do:

  • Compare labels, looking for the lowest amount of sodium you can find.
  • Pick fresh and frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution.
  • Opt for canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” and frozen vegetables without salty sauces.
  • Drain and rinse canned beans and vegetables.
  • Cook pasta, rice, and hot cereal without salt.
  • At restaurants, ask for your dish to be made without extra salt.

One final tip: Incorporate foods with potassium like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas, and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.

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