First of all, my brother-in-law Matthew has an awesome blog. He’s a real, paid, professional food writer. Check him out.
Yesterday, I read his post called Bad to the Bone, which examines a newspaper article about good food gone bad — so-called “good foods” like vegetables getting contaminated during preparation by “bad foods” like cream, butter, cheese, fat, salt, sugar, bacon…you get the idea.
That got me thinking about salt. I recently developed high blood pressure, and the doctor advised me to cut back on salt. However, I also remember hearing a few years ago that someone had debunked the whole “salt causes high blood pressure” thing. Matthew’s blog post inspired me to look this up. I found that yes, there is some question about whether salt is really an issue for everyone with high blood pressure. One theory is that some people with high blood pressure are salt-sensitive, while some are not.
According to this WebMD article, the actual problem may be mineral deficiency. The article cites data presented at an American Heart Association research conference, which suggests that the problem is potassium, magnesium, and calcium deficiency. An article on NaturalNews.com discusses the same mineral deficiencies, noting that some scientists believe that the interaction between sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium is what’s important, rather than simply the amount of sodium consumed.
Okay, now you’re probably saying “so what?” Here’s my brainstorm. Besides cutting back on sodium, high blood pressure patients are usually put on the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet emphasizes increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, which also increases your consumption of potassium and calcium — and maybe magnesium. I glanced at a list of magnesium-rich foods, and it looks like most of them are grains and legumes, although there are some fruits and dairy products in there.
So, I’m inclined to think that cutting back drastically on sodium isn’t necessarily a cure-all for high blood pressure (and the articles I’ve read online do seem to confirm that). I have been buying things like low-sodium canned tomatoes, and have been using salt sparingly while cooking, but I’m putting a higher priority on adding fruits and vegetables, rather than depriving myself of other things. I’m also making exercise a priority. I’m feeling a sense of balance as I do this. We’ll see how it works out.