In a Healthy Heart Diet Beware of Hidden Salt

Filed Under: Heart Health, Food and Nutrition, Blood Pressure
Last Reviewed 07/25/2014

For decades I’ve been making spaghetti sauce for family and friends. It's a mainstay in my healthy heart diet. As I prepare the sauce over the course of a day, I repeatedly taste it to make sure that I get it just right.

Twenty or so years ago, I noticed that the day after the meal I had gained a few pounds—and I was unusually thirsty as well. I was perplexed until I investigated and learned that the canned tomatoes, pastes, and purees I was using were high in salt.

Here I was, a cardiologist, as well as a holistic health practitioner, and I hadn’t made the connection. Excess salt contributes to water retention, and that was my problem. Of course, too much salt also makes it difficult to control high blood pressure and contributes toward a myriad of other heart risk factors.

I quickly changed my ways and my spaghetti sauce recipe. I started avoiding foods high in salt, which meant reading labels on foods in the grocery store. (This one act alone is an excellent way to naturally maintain good blood pressure levels.)  Most people don’t think they eat too much salt because they didn’t use a salt shaker. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case.


How Much Salt Should You Get in Your Healthy Heart Diet?

I recommend limiting your salt intake to less than 2.5 grams a day. But what most people don't realize is that most of your salt intake doesn't come from the salt shaker. Instead, the majority of that excess salt is hidden in processed foods, such as canned spaghetti sauces, soups, and dill pickles.

I’ll never forget a patient of mine who had chronic hypertension and ate his fill of canned ham (packed with salt) on Easter Sunday. The next day he was in the emergency room with a hypertensive crisis and acute heart failure. His heart just couldn’t handle the large amount of salt he had consumed.

His was an extraordinary situation, but it underscores the need to be careful with salt intake. So let his story, and mine, be lessons for you as well to look out for hidden salt in your healthy heart diet. 


Now it's your turn: How do you avoid salt in your healthy heart diet?


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