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Can eating a high-sodium diet still hurt me even if I don’t have high blood pressure?

Alice Lichtenstein, the Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School, dishes out the answer
July 27, 2011

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Although you are not hypertensive now, there are some reasons why it would be a good idea to start moderating your sodium intake. As we age, our blood pressure tends to rise. This does not happen to everyone, but it does happen to the majority of people.

In addition, as we age, it can become more and more difficult to change food habits. Gradually lowering sodium intake over a few years can make the transition easier. Limited data also suggest that even people with normal blood pressure benefit from a modest reduction in sodium.

Limited data suggest that even people with normal blood pressure benefit from a modest reduction in sodium. Photo: iStockThe good news is the reduced-sodium foods now on the market don’t resemble the low-sodium foods introduced—and summarily rejected—years ago. Companies are testing innovative ways to lower sodium without losing flavor, including gradually ramping down sodium contents, changing the physical characteristics of the salt crystal to maximize perception of the salt taste while reducing the total quantity, and using different types of salt with different levels of “saltiness.”

Check to see whether there are reduced-sodium forms of the same foods you usually buy; most of us just buy the same thing time after time and may not notice when a new option is introduced. Try a couple out. You may find you actually prefer them to your habitual choice.

You don’t have to switch all your foods at once. If you choose one or two foods every week, by the end of the year you will have reduced your sodium intake but not your enjoyment of your food.

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