Blood pressure is the force with which the blood passes against the blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood constantly into the arteries which further carries blood throughout the body. Hypertension or high blood pressure is mainly a pressure developed inside the blood vessels which is more than the normal value. In the majority of the cases, the cause of hypertension is usually not known. The variety of foods eaten in a diet can leave a direct effect on the blood pressure, either in a good way or a bad way.
There are a lot of controversies related to the effect of salt in increasing the blood pressure. In this article, we will discuss about it in details.
Can Taking Salt Increase Blood Pressure Immediately?
Salt mainly contains sodium chloride which is an electrolyte. This when consumed gets dissolved with the food and stomach fluid. The sodium in salt fulfills its metabolic role in the cells which then immediately raises the blood pressure levels. Eating too much of salt also leads to water retention in the body to wash out the excess salt. This is a normal mechanism opted by the body. However, in some people, this water retention might cause blood pressure to rise.(1,2) Since, excess water in the body can put stress over the heart as well as the blood vessels, it is advisable to consume it in only the recommended amount.
As per the American Heart Association, limiting sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams daily is the best way to keep blood pressure issues at bay.(3)
How Much Salt Is Considered As Simply Too Much?
Any adult must not indulge in eating more than 6g of salt per day. However, most of the people eat more than the recommended amount of daily salt intake. Although, as per certain studies salt intake has already declined over the years due to awareness about diseases that excess of salt intake causes.
Nowadays, most of the salt intake is hidden either in processed foods like breakfast cereals, bread, cookies or ready to eat meals and takeaways. So in that way, hidden salt accounts for nearly 75% of the entire salt intake.(4) and the remaining 25 percent is consumed when we add salt to the food while cooking.
Best way to avoid blood pressure is by controlling over salt intake. Since several types of research studies has revealed certain linkage causing sudden spikes with excessive salt intake, it is best to avoid hidden salt intake such foods must be avoided which are suspected to contain salt even in minimal amounts.(4)
Labels of foods must be read carefully before buying anything to keep control over salt intake. The following listing can help us in categorizing the foods:(5)
- Foods with low salt content might reveal salt of 0.3g or less per 100g of food: This can be consumed by a person in an insufficiently good amount.
- Foods with medium salt content might reveal salt of 0.3g to 1.5g per 100g of food: This can be consumed in small amounts on an occasional basis.
- Foods with high salt content might reveal salt of 1.5g and above per 100g of food: These foods must be avoided.
It must be kept in mind that 1/4th teaspoon of salt has around 575mg of sodium (6). Also, while reading labels sodium content and the salt amount must not be confused. As per the law, companies have to mention salt contents on the label. Salt is sodium chloride and sodium is the main culprit known for raising blood pressure. Some foods might show sodium content instead of salt contents.
In this regard, one must check the labels and purchase the foods accordingly:
- Low: 0.1g of sodium or lesser per 100g of the food
- Medium: 0.1 to 0.6g of sodium per 100g food
- High: 0.6g or more of sodium present per 100g of food
High sodium content must be avoided and medium can be consumed occasionally however low sodium content foods are normally harmless and can be eaten as a balanced diet part.
In case, a label does not reveal how much salt is present then the ingredient list can be of help. Reviewing the contents helps in avoiding things with excessive salt. Moreover, the closer towards the top if salt is mentioned in the list then it indicates the presence of more salt content in that particular food item. So knowing more about what we buy and eat every single day is essential for maintaining healthy and fit body free from several diseases, not just blood pressure.
How to Limit Daily Salt Intake?
The tips to follow to reduce the daily intake of salt include:(3)
- Eating foods with low levels of salt, fat, and calories helps.
- Avoid adding excess salt or even soy sauce, gravy granules, and stock cubes while cooking food.
- Prefer adding other herbs and spices for flavors like ginger, lime, chili, or black pepper.
- Using spices or herbs and vinegar or lemon and even fruit juices for flavoring foods is a better option instead of adding too much salt for taste and flavoring.
- Add a small amount of any low-sodium salt substitute and check with the healthcare practitioner if it is safe for use in case a person has any kidney problem or even diabetes. Buy sodium free herbs and seasonings.
Always read nutrition labels before purchasing anything and choose wisely with no or low sodium content.
Many processed or canned foods like sausages, bacon, dried soup mixes contain high amounts of sodium content. Several snack foods like popcorn, peanuts, chips, and even condiments including soy sauce and salad dressings are high in sodium and must be avoided. Choose low salt variants amongst canned sauces, pickles, and ketchup since they possess too much of salt.
Breakfast options like bread and other variants like pancakes might contain a little extra salt which can be avoided by just looking at the label before purchasing it.
Avoiding oily food, butter, and excess salad dressing keeps blood pressure in control as it will reduce the intake of salt.
While brunching out or even dining out, be wise to choose meals with lesser salt content. Specially smoked and processed foods contain excess salt which must be avoided. Frozen foods also contain extra salt to preserve them so it must be cleaned and cooked to eliminate excess food else avoiding it entirely is the best option.
Looking for more low salt recipes is one of the best measures which must be taken to keep blood pressure levels healthy. Several recipes are available nowadays on the internet in even in cookbooks which can be accessed with ease to help.
Nutrition has a direct link with blood pressure; the more amount of salt a person eats, the more it will revolve around in the entire blood causing blood pressure. Several food items contain salt in different forms and some of them possess in hidden forms like in all bakery items.
Even some medications and supplements do contain salt in it in the form of sodium and its compounds. Mainly effervescent and soluble tablets like vitamin C and pain killers (eg- aspirin) contain sodium carbonate which creates a fizz in the solution. Those medicines might contain nearly 1g of salt in one single tablet. So avoiding such medicines as much as possible is the best way to avoid blood pressure troubles. A doctor must be consulted before starting any supplements especially for people already suffering from blood pressure issues.
Initially, food with low or completely without salt might have a bland taste. However, eventually, the taste buds adjust to the lesser amount of salt and the food becomes healthier as well.
- Ha S. Dietary Salt Intake and Hypertension. Electrolytes & Blood Pressure. 2014;12(1):7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105387/
- Blaustein M, Leenen F, Chen L, Golovina V, Hamlyn J, Pallone T et al. How NaCl raises blood pressure: a new paradigm for the pathogenesis of salt-dependent hypertension. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 2012;302(5):H1031-H1049. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22058154
- Farquhar WB, Edwards DG, Jurkovitz CT, Weintraub WS. Dietary sodium and health: more than just blood pressure. J Am Coll Cardiol. (2015) 65:1042–50.
- Henney JE, Taylor CL, Boon CS, editors. Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States. National Academies Press; Washington, D.C.: 2010. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21210559
- Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure [Internet]. www.heart.org. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/shaking-the-salt-habit-to-lower-high-blood-pressure
- Treating Sore Throat Naturally With Warm Salt Water Gargle
- What is Salt Therapy or Halotherapy, its benefits, side effects and forms
- What are the Health Risks of Having too Much Salt in Your Diet?
- Benefits of Salt Therapy in Relieving Respiratory Ailments
- Types of Salt & How They Affect Your Health
- Are Saltwater Flushes Effective? What Are Their Benefits of Saltwater Flushes?
- Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Actually Work?