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Low-Sodium Diet Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Fitness for mind and body.

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says that women who limit their sodium intake can substantially lower their blood pressure.

In fact, the study, which looked at the health benefits of a low-sodium diet for postmenopausal women, showed that some women's blood pressure decreased by 16 points - as much as would be expected from some blood pressure lowering medications.

But changing eating habits to lower sodium intake can be easier said than done for both men and women. The Mayo Clinic and the makers of NoSalt Salt Substitute offer some tips for stocking your kitchen and eating at home that can help establish healthier eating habits and lower your blood pressure.

Tips to Reduce Sodium Intake

Make a list. Plan your meals weekly and include all the ingredients you'll need on your grocery list. Don't forget breakfast and some snacks. Be sure to read labels of prepared foods and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Buy fresh. Generally, fresh foods are healthier than prepared foods because you can control what ingredients are added. Fresh foods generally also have better color, flavor and nutrients.

Don't shop on an empty stomach. If you shop when you're hungry, you're more likely to buy foods you don't need, which may contain high amounts of fat and sodium. See: The Savvy Grocery Shopper.

Salt Shaker

Look at labels. Take time to read labels and compare similar foods. Choose those that are most nutritious.

Stock your kitchen wisely. Healthful foods aren't necessarily hard to find or expensive. Choices like low-fat or fat-free milk and cheese, brown or white rice, bagels, pasta, legumes (black, red and navy beans, for example), skinless chicken and extra-lean cuts of beef all contribute to lower fat and sodium levels.

Use healthful cooking techniques. Cook with less salt and little or no oil or other fat. In recipes, cut the amount of salt in half. To enhance flavors, use onions, herbs, spices, vinegars and salt substitutes. Cutting the amount of meat in stews and casseroles and substituting lower fat dairy products, such as reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream, also help. Grill, broil, roast or stir-fry foods instead of frying.

Rinse canned foods, such as tuna, to remove some of the sodium.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan is a proven method to lower blood pressure. This diet is a combination of reduced saturated fat and sodium that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and recommends limiting sodium intake to 3,000 milligrams (about one teaspoon) per day. That may seem like a lot, but because sodium is hidden in many foods (for example, one cup of skim milk contains 127 milligrams of sodium), salt intake can add up quickly.

Generally, it takes about six weeks for taste buds to get used to less salty foods, experts say. But once you get started and settle into the routine, you'll notice many benefits of an improved diet. And following a low-sodium diet doesn't mean you can't eat foods you love. It's a matter of reading labels and making good food choices.

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