Myths of hypertension: Learn about sodium

Editor February 27th, 2014

Myths heard at Project SHARE blood pressure screening: “I don’t add table salt to my food, so I don’t have a high sodium diet.”

While adding a lot of table salt to your food is bad for you and can raise your blood pressure, the real bad actor is the sodium in the packaged food you buy and in meals from restaurants. Most people understand that junk foods such as potato chips are high in sodium, but what most people don’t realize is that there are many foods, which seem healthy, that are actually very high in sodium.

Example: Campbell's® Classics Minestrone Soup

  • This soup has a lot of hearty ingredients such as tomatoes, green beans, and kidney beans. Sounds healthy right? Wrong!
  • 1/2 cup of this soup has 960 milligrams of sodium that equals 40% of your recommended daily value of sodium, or the total amount of salt you should have in an entire day.

So what you might think is a healthy meal because of the nutritious ingredients, can actually be adding to your chances of getting hypertension, or managing it if you already have it.

Another way to get way too much sodium without even realizing it is to eat out at restaurants. And that means not just fast food restaurants. Most restaurant food is highly salted.

Example: Applebee’s’ Weight Watchers Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp

  • This sounds like a healthy option because it is by Weight Watchers
  • This dish has 2440 milligrams of sodium (note that the US Government recommends that adults should have less than 2400 milligrams of sodium = 1 teaspoon of salt a day).
  • That one meal has more sodium than an average adult should have in one day

Alternative: Make grilled steak and shrimp at home with a side of vegetables. Add olive oil and garlic to the shrimp and vegetables instead of high sodium sauce. This dish can be prepared in less than half of the salt used in Weight Watchers Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp.

 

Example: Hale and Hearty’s Turkey and Avocado with Walnut Pesto Sandwich

  • The Hale and Hearty chain is known for being a healthy place to pick up a quick lunch—fast food without being a “fast food restaurant.” But Hale and Hearty is not necessarily as healthy as it may seem.
  • The Turkey and Avocado with Walnut Pesto Sandwich has 2400 mg of sodium.
  • Remember that adults are only supposed to have a maximum of 2400 mg of sodium in one day. This one sandwich, which does have some healthy ingredients, contains a whole day’s worth of sodium.

Alternative: Make a sandwich at home with whole grain bread, thin slice of deli turkey (around 350-400 mg of sodium), pieces of avocado, lettuce, tomato, and a tablespoon of light mayo. This dish contains around 1,000 mg of sodium.

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