A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Healthy salt substitutes: Shake it up for blood pressure

We Americans love our salt, but consuming a high sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure. Healthy salt substitutes and changing how you prepare food can help reduce your sodium intake.

Salt shaker tipped over with salt spilling out instead of healthy salt substitutes

The human body does not need nearly the amount of salt most of us consume each day. The highest sources of salt may be surprising: store-bought breads, frozen pizza and most packaged foods and restaurant entrees.

“Salt is a flavor enhancer,” said Karla Arrigoni, a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian.

“It makes foods taste better, but we can become desensitized to this taste. This means, if you’re eating a lot of high sodium foods, they won’t taste salty to you. If you get in the habit of eating less salt, foods high in sodium will begin to taste too salty.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines currently call for limiting sodium or salt intake for most people to less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily, the equivalent of one teaspoon.

Sodium in table salt, or sodium chloride, is the problem. It can raise blood pressure, causing arteries to be more rigid and potentially leading to heart disease or heart failure.

“There’s a greater incidence of high blood pressure in countries like the United States that have higher sodium diets,” said Karla Arrigoni, a Marshfield Clinic Health System dietitian. “In these countries, it’s thought to be more a question of when people will get high blood pressure rather than if they will get it.”

Bone health, too, is affected by eating foods higher in sodium, said Arrigoni.

“This is because with a high sodium diet, more calcium is lost in the urine,” she said.

Common salt substitutes

The most common salt substitute is potassium chloride, which provides the salty taste people love. It also has the added benefit of adding more potassium into your diet, which has many health benefits.

“However, potassium chloride can be a problem if you take certain medications or have kidney problems,” said Arrigoni.

There are also many other herbs and spices you can use to reduce the need for salt.

“Fill your saltshaker with combinations of other spices such as curry, rosemary, basil and fennel. Try mixing and matching spice options for preparing meats, vegetables and fruit recipes,” Arrigoni said.

There are also many assorted prepackaged sodium-free seasoning combinations available from your local grocer.

Carrots, celery, ginger and lemon juices are also good fresh flavor alternatives to using salt.

Kosher salt and sea salt are not healthy salt substitutes.

“Sodium content for both is similar,” Arrigoni said. “Sea salt has a fresher taste, making it easier to use less.”

Baking and cooking from scratch

The more you cook and bake from scratch, the more control you’ll have over salt intake and ability to use different seasonings. Popular products that are often high in sodium that you can make on your own include:

  • Seasoning mixes for barbeques or tacos
  • Salad dressings

RELATED RECIPE: Tangy Dressing Recipe

For baking, she suggests using more extracts and lower sodium substitutes for baking soda and baking powder.

For questions about salt and blood pressure, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

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