From potato chips to salted peanuts, Americans love salty foods. Good thing since most processed foods are loaded with sodium. Not surprisingly, most people far exceed the recommendation of less than 2400 milligrams of sodium a day – the equivalent of about a half-teaspoon of salt. Unfortunately, this love affair with sodium increases the risk of heart disease for many Americans. Now, a new study shows that using salt-free substitute with potassium could help to improve heart-health.
The World of Salt-Free Substitutes
Most salt-free substitutes substitute potassium for sodium, yielding potassium chloride. These potassium salt substitutes are readily available at most grocery stores in the spice section. Also available are salt substitutes made of a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride. The mixture helps to reduce the bitter taste that potassium salt substitutes have and makes them more palatable. These salt substitutes aren’t sodium-free, but they are lower in sodium.
Using Salt Substitute to Lower the Risk of Heart Disease
According to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, increasing dietary potassium lowers average blood pressure levels by 3.2 mm Hg. This may not sound like a lot, but this modest drop in blood pressure reduces the risk of heart disease by up to 11% and stroke risk by 15%. Using potassium chloride instead of table salt also helps people with mild hypertension control better control their blood pressure.
Potassium Salt Substitutes: The Importance of Potassium
Another study showed that oral potassium supplements helped to lower blood pressure in 37 people with mild hypertension. Taking potassium supplements isn’t necessarily a good idea, but it shows how important potassium is for maintaining a normal blood pressure.
The recommended daily intake of potassium is about 4,700 milligrams – and potassium is widely distributed in foods – but some Americans aren’t getting enough of this important mineral that regulates multiple bodily functions including fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle function.
Should You Use a Salt-Free Substitute?
For most people a salt-free substitute is a healthier alternative to salt, although it takes some time to adjust to the slightly bitter taste. It’s best to start with a mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride until your taste buds adapt, and then switch to pure potassium chloride. Keep in mind that this only reduces sodium you use at the table. Most processed foods are loaded with salt, so cut back on these too if you’re concerned about heart health.
One word of warning. People who have kidney disease or are on certain medications, can get too much potassium. Talk to your doctor before using potassium salt substitutes if you’re on medications or have any medical problems.
Food Navigator-USA website. “Increasing ‘˜good’ salt could improve heart health”
Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987 June 6; 294(6585): 1453′”1456.