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Can reducing salt intake lower blood pressure?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Many people who have hypertension lower their blood pressure simply by lowering their sodium intake. It is not known why some people are more sensitive to salt intake than others. Lowering the salt intake may allow you to avoid or take less blood pressure medications. Since it is not very hard to reduce excess salt in the diet and since there are no serious side effects, this is an important “natural” way to lower your blood pressure.

One easy way to lower salt in your diet is to avoid adding salt to your food at the dinner table. Also, don’t add additional salt to the food you cook. Your taste will change over time so that you actually enjoy less salt. In fact, many people find foods taste too salty after they have gone on a lower salt regimen. Lowering salt in the diet is painless and may benefit your health, particularly your blood pressure.

Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Absolutely. Salt/sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure. Therefore, by reducing sodium intake can lower blood pressure. Stay away from high sodium foods, such as packaged meats, instant foods and condiments. Try to consume whole fruits and vegetables that will also lower blood pressure. Consult with a registered dietitian for advice.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

While losing excess weight and cutting back on dietary sodium can have a dramatic impact on lowering high blood pressure, there are also certain foods that you can eat that may also help. The following advice may help you eat to beat high blood pressure:

  • Pump up the potassium-rich foods in your diet: A diet adequate in potassium lowers blood pressure by causing the kidneys to excrete excess sodium from the body. Ridding the body of sodium will help lower blood pressure. Potatoes, orange juice, yogurt, bananas and beans are all potassium powerhouses. For a list of more potassium-rich foods and tips on how to get more of them in your diet, please read a previous blog post.
  • Eat at least 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies daily: Mother Nature's finest are naturally low in sodium and rich in potassium, making them a dynamic duo. Because fruits and veggies are also rich in fiber and water, they will "fill you up before they fill you out" and help cut back on the calories typically eaten at a meal. Cutting calories in your diet can reduce pounds around your waist. If overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can reduce a person's blood pressure and may actually prevent high blood pressure in many folks even if they haven't yet reached a healthy weight. Devote half of your plate at every meal to fruits and vegetables otherwise you'll never reach the 4.5 cup minimum quota daily. Have a piece of fruit at breakfast, load your lunchtime sandwich with layers of tomatoes and lettuce and accompany it with a side salad. Grab a seasonal apple (this is the sweet season) for dessert. At dinner, beef up the veggies that you make. If fresh veggies are not available, reach into the freezer for easy-to-prepare, plain frozen vegetables.
  • Pass the milk, please: Low fat and skim milk, as well as soymilk, are not only rich in potassium but also calcium and magnesium, other minerals that can help lower blood pressure. Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal smothered in skim or low fat milk or soymilk. Cook your hot oatmeal with milk rather than water, and order your morning latte with low fat milk rather than cream.

Reducing salt is always a good idea when you have high blood pressure. Some people have essential hypertension for which the cause is unknown. Either way limiting sodium is helpful. So is a diet high in fresh produce. The antioxidants and magnesium help keep arteries pliable.

Lona Sandon
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Lowering the amount of sodium in your diet may help lower your blood pressure. When we eat too much sodium, our bodies will hold on to more water. This increases the amount of blood flowing through our veins and arteries which increases blood pressure.

To lower your sodium intake:

  1. Check the labels on the foods you eat. A low sodium food will have 140 mg or less of sodium per serving. Aim for 480 mg or less for a single pre-prepared food item like canned soup or pasta mix. And aim for less than 600 mg for a meal or main dish such as pizza or microwaveable meal.
  2. Skip the salty snacks, baked goodies and eat out less often. 
  3. If you use canned or frozen vegetables, choose ones without sodium added.
  4. Choose to eat more fresh foods more often.
  5. Prepare more foods from scratch.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.