3 Science-Backed Reasons Why You’re Low-Sodium Diet Isn’t Working to Lower Blood Pressure (And How to Get Off Diuretics)

Do you want to lower your blood pressure naturally with your diet? Understand this whole salt thing? Learn why what you’re doing may not be working? 

If you have high blood pressure, my guess is “Yes!” so read on...

We need to rewind and start from the beginning and learn more about salt.

Yes, there are lots of different kinds of salt: pink, iodized, kosher, sea, etc.

They come from salt mines in the ground, or from evaporating the water out of salt water.

What they all have in common is that infamous mineral that I’m going to talk about below: sodium.

In food, salt is used for both flavor, and as a preservative.

Salt helps to preserve food by drawing out the water that bacteria and mold need to grow.

Hence, preserving the food from spoiling as quickly.

Would you be surprised to know that 75% of our salt intake comes not from the salt shaker?

It comes from processed foods.

Snacks like chips, pretzels and salted nuts are included here.

But so are canned foods, pickled foods, boxed foods, deli meats, restaurant food, and fast food.

However, you might be wondering if you’ve been eating low-sodium then why in the world is your blood pressure still high.

Here are 3 science-backed reasons why eating low-sodium might not be working.

why you're low sodium diet isn't working

1) Buying low-sodium doesn’t mean healthy.

Salt vs. Sodium

Salt is actually "sodium chloride."

It's about 40% sodium and 60% chloride; this means that one teaspoon of salt (5,000 mg) contains about 2,000 mg of sodium.

The words salt and sodium are not exactly the same, yet these words are often used interchangeably.

For example, the Nutrition Facts Panel uses “sodium,” while the front of the package may say “no salt added” or “unsalted.”

Don’t trust the front of the package, make sure to look for the sodium content on the nutrition facts table.

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I don’t know how much turkey you put on your sandwich, but 2 oz of lunch meat is nothing.

So a normal sandwich will have at least 2 servings of this ‘“low-sodium” turkey.

That means that just one sandwich would give you 840 mg of sodium. That's definitely not lower sodium or low-sodium.

And look at all those ingredients. This is NOT a healthy option.

Want meat for a sandwich? Roast a chicken or turkey and use that or buy it already roasted! Your sandwich will and improve and so will your health.

2- Salt is the problem… guess again.

Do you have the thought that all salt is bad?

Sodium itself is not bad!

In fact, it’s an essential mineral and an important electrolyte in the body.

It helps with fluid balance, and proper nerve and muscle function.

Too much sodium is not great!

Regularly getting too much sodium (over 5000 mg a day) can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, stomach cancer, and kidney stones.

People who eat a lot of pre-made, packaged foods tend to eat way too much sodium which would be over 5,000 mg per day.

Or just ONE meal at your favorite restaurants. For example, The Denny’s Meat Lover’s Scramble consists of:

2 eggs with chopped bacon, diced ham, crumbled sausage and cheese

2 bacon strips

2 sausage links

hash browns

2 pancakes

5,690 mg of sodium (379% of the advised daily limit)

If you generally eat real foods, you don’t need to worry much about salt.

It’s nearly impossible to consume more than 1200 mg of sodium per day from unprocessed foods.

There is NO convincing evidence that people with moderate or average sodium (3,000 mg) intake need to reduce their sodium intake for the prevention of heart disease and stroke.

Most organizations and doctors recommend reducing sodium to less than 2,000 or 1,500 mg, a new study disagrees with this.

Any health risk of sodium intake is virtually eliminated if people improve their diet quality by adding fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, potatoes, and other potassium-rich foods.

There is evidence that a low-sodium diet, less than 3,000 mg can actually be harmful and including sodium in your diet can be beneficial. 

"In communities that consumed less than five grams of sodium a day, sodium consumption was inversely associated with myocardial infarction or heart attacks and total mortality, and no increase in stroke."

This means that actually including sodium in your diet rather than restricting it helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Finding YOUR balance is key but talking with your doctor about what your goals for sodium are is a conversation worth having.

3- So you’ve eliminated canned, fast food, ready-made meals, and your blood pressure is still high

Sodium isn’t the only important nutrient in lowering blood pressure naturally with your diet.

Adding in foods with potassium is just as important as trying to ‘lower sodium’ and it may be why just eliminating ready-made foods isn’t working.

Potassium is a key mineral that the body relies on heavily to function properly. It helps to lower blood pressure by balancing out the negative effects of salt.

Your kidneys help to control your blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in your body.

This is why your blood pressure is high, hard to control, and sporadic if your kidneys aren’t working properly.

The more fluid, the higher your blood pressure.

Your kidneys do this by filtering your blood and sucking out any extra fluid, which it then stores in your bladder as urine.

This process uses a delicate balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across a wall of cells from the bloodstream into a collecting channel that leads to the bladder.

Eating salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream and wrecks the delicate balance, reducing the ability of your kidneys to remove the water.

Are you taking diuretics for blood pressure? These drugs work on that sodium/potassium balance to lower blood pressure.

There are simple changes that you can make that will create the same effect as these drugs. 

Diuretics like hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) can decrease potassium levels and triamterene/HCTZ works to maintain the potassium/sodium balance.

By eating more fruit and vegetables, you will increase your potassium levels and help to restore the delicate balance.

This will help your kidneys to work more efficiently - and help to lower your blood pressure to a healthy level.

And if you can get that balance just right, you can throw those diuretics in the trash because they won’t have anything to work on.

(this is my opinion based on science and as a pharmacist, but don’t make any changes to your medication regimen without speaking to your doctor first!)

Conclusion

If you eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, then you probably don’t need to worry about your salt intake.

Feel free to add a bit of salt during cooking or at the table for flavor.

If your doctor has told you to reduce your salt or sodium intake, then you can do this by reducing your intake of processed foods, adding less salt to the food you make, and eating more mineral-rich plant-based foods. 

What's your take on salt? Have you seen a drop in blood pressure from the dietary changes that you've made so far? Is there anything more that you can do with your diet?

Even if you have tried it all & nothing has worked...

  • even if you've tried cutting the salt
  • even if you've tried to lose weight
  • even if you've tried to eat healthy
  • even if you've tried to eat 'low-carb'
  • even if you've tried to eat 'low-fat'
  • even if you've tried to skip meals because you don't know what's safe to eat with high blood pressure
  • even if you've tried natural remedies, chiropractors, naturopaths, and nothing is working

It's time for a NEW approach to lower blood pressure once and for all.  Click the image below to learn more.

Recipe (Low-Sodium Spice Mix): Italian Spice Mix

1   tbsp dried oregano
1 ½ tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried parsley

1 tbsp dried thyme
½   tbsp onion powder
½ tbsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients and place in a sealed container. Sprinkle where you would normally use salt. This is especially good with Italian-style dishes.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Feel free to play around with the ingredients. If you hate oregano, leave it out. If you love garlic, add more.