Why a Healthy Diet Doesn’t Cancel the Harm Caused by Too Much Sodium


Whether you can add salt to season your food depends on whether you’ve taken into account the amount of sodium you consume from processed or commercially prepared foods, which can be very high, in addition to what you add from the salt shaker. Experts recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (equivalent to a little more than a teaspoon of table salt daily). If you have high blood pressure or are African American, aim for less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

And keep in mind the results from a 2018 study in the journal Hypertension, which found that a healthy diet does not significantly counteract the effect of high sodium intake on blood pressure.

Researchers correlated data on dietary intake, urinary sodium, blood pressure, and other factors for 4,680 middle-aged people from the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Japan and found that blood pressure rose with higher intakes of sodium even in those who consumed high amounts of potassium and other key nutrients from fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

Notably, while potassium is known to help lower blood pressure, high intakes of it only modestly offset the blood pressure–boosting effect of high sodium consumption. And consuming very high levels of potassium can be dangerous.

The study results were also true for other nutrients that may help control blood pressure. Thus, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is most effective when people limit sodium, the researchers pointed out. You can download a free booklet that explains DASH from the National Institutes of Health.