Senior Health & Wellness | Five Star Senior Living
Breaking Up (With Sodium) Is Hard To Do

Breaking Up (With Sodium) Is Hard To Do

The American Heart Association’s (AHA) new campaign, “I love you salt, but you’re breaking my heart,” asks us to love ourselves by caring for our hearts and curbing our daily sodium intake. To give you an idea as to why this is so important, take this into account: the average American consumes 3400mg of sodium each day. The AHA recommends staying under 2,300 mg a day to stay healthy. If you are 51 or older, African-American, and/or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the recommended amount is even lower – 1,500 mg. The focus on sodium intake comes from strong clinical evidence that links it to high blood pressure, a major contributor to the development of heart disease and a risk factor for strokes. The goal of the AHA’s campaign is, first, to draw attention to the amount of sodium in the foods we eat and, second, to move us from awareness to action with steps to reduce the sodium in our diets.  Since most people think of salt as a primary flavoring agent, it can be hard to imagine that low-sodium foods and recipes can be tasty. Here are some heart-healthy tips to help you keep the flavor and tamp down the salt.
  • Cook at home. In general, more than ¾ of the sodium we eat comes from food we didn’t cook ourselves—processed, pre-packaged, or restaurant foods.  Try this heart healthy recipe for Roasted Salmon and Sautéed Spinach to get you started.
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt. These add great flavor to foods and there is growing evidence that the phytochemicals found in some may have cardiac benefits.
  • Drink green tea. Phenols are the gem of the phytochemical group, which increase HDL levels--the good cholesterols that help protect the inner walls of blood vessels in the heart. 
  • Eat more nuts and whole grains. These contain phystosteroids, another class of phytochemical, which is credited with decreasing serum cholesterol levels. Ideally, go for natural, unsalted nuts and unbleached grains like 100% whole wheat, brown rice, and/or quinoa.
  • Use extra virgin olive oil instead of other oils and butters. The nutty flavor adds depth to just about anything and the cardiac benefits of this staple of the Mediterranean diet are well documented.
  • Go for garlic, chives, onions, and shallots. These contain allicin, a compound shown to help decrease blood pressure. Research suggests dried versions are less potent so opt for fresh whenever possible. And, if you’re worried about bad breath, just make sure your significant other has some too!
While we’re spotlighting certain foods for heart health, keep in mind that all natural foods have some health benefit. Rather than picking foods for one specific purpose, the biggest wins come from increasing our knowledge of foods and stocking our kitchens with healthy foods of all kinds so we reap the cumulative benefits of eating well.

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