A 25-year study from Harvard has found a relationship between a higher salt intake and premature death. The study included individuals who did not have high blood pressure or heart disease.

Tone down the salt intake

Hand Salting Salad

Salt – it sure does make food taste pretty good. It brings out the natural flavor in foods. And, of course, salt has been used for years to preserve food. But we also know that it might be a health risk if we take in too much salt for long periods of time. Forty percent of salt is sodium, the mineral linked to higher blood pressure.

A 25-year study from Harvard has found a relationship between a higher salt intake and premature death. The study included individuals who did not have high blood pressure or heart disease.

The researchers compared an intake of ½ teaspoon of salt to 1½ teaspoons of salt. This equates to 2,300 mg of sodium compared to 3,600 mg of sodium. There was a greater risk of dying with the higher salt intake. The American Heart Association recommends just 1,500 mg sodium per day.

The primary sources of sodium and salt today are processed and convenience foods. Examples include:

  • Packaged foods with flavorings -seasoned rice and pasta
  • Canned soups and dry soup mixes
  • Jarred and canned spaghetti sauces
  • Canned vegetables
  • Bottled salad dressings
  • Frozen meals

Some folks still add salt liberally to their dishes but the majority of dietary salt – and thus sodium – comes from foods that have been at least partially prepped for us. These are called convenience foods because someone else has done the seasoning or preparation for us. All we need to do is open up the jar or package and heat – a time saver in the kitchen.

The downside to convenience foods is that the salt has already been added – you cannot make an adjustment. Plain oatmeal is 0 mg of sodium but a packet of instant oatmeal has already been salted and contains about 300 mg sodium. Plain noodles have no sodium but the seasoned packages of noodles can be as high as 1,000 mg per 1 cup serving. What a difference. So hopefully you can strike a balance between prepping everything from scratch – which does require more kitchen time – and including a few convenience items.

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.