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You Ask, I Answer: Salt Substitutes

Posted Jan 13 2010 10:00pm

alsosalt_2089_9549707Thank you so much for all the information you share with us on your blog.  I have learned so much over the past few months.

Last month, after my doctor said my blood pressure was higher than it should be, I followed your advice and kept a record of how much sodium I was eating [on a daily basis].  I definitely need to cut down.

What do you think of salt substitutes?  One of my nieces mentioned I need to be careful since they can cause kidney problems.  Is that true?

– Melody (Last name withheld)
Tucson, AZ

No, it is not true.

Let’s start from the beginning, though.

Most salt substitutes are made from potassium chloride, which taints them with an unpleasant aftertaste.

I have tried various different brands, and the only one that truly does a good job of replicating the flavor of salt is AlsoSalt.

Salt replacers can not only help lower sodium intake, but also increase potassium consumption.

Remember — increasing potassium intake is just as important as lowering sodium consumption to manage — and prevent — hypertension.  Unfortunately, the average American consumers more sodium and less potassium than recommended on a daily basis.

There are two concerns with salt substitutes, though.

Anyone diagnosed with kidney or liver disorders (or who is on any sort of medication for those conditions and/or cardiac ones) can NOT consume salt substitutes since the potassium content can have life-threatening consequences.

While healthy individuals can consume these products safely, I still recommend training the palate to get used to flavors other than salt.  Otherwise, you will simply continue to crave foods high in sodium.

I would recommend, for example, replacing half of the salt in a recipe with a salt substitute and then using spices to make up for that other fifty percent.

Spices are a wonderful way to add flavor — as well as health-promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants — to any meal.  Experiment with ground ginger, cumin, curry powder, thyme, rosemary, oregano, paprika, and other delicious varieties.

To clarify your niece’s concerns — salt substitutes do not cause kidney problems.  As stated above, though, they will certainly worsen any existing renal conditions.

I have to say, though, that I doubt the salt shaker is the main culprit of your high sodium consumption.

One of the most effective ways to keep your intake in check is to limit processed foods in your diet and choose whole, minimally processed — or, even better, unprocessed — foods whenever possible.

Keep in mind, too, that while these salt substitutes are high in potassium, you should try to get as much potassium as possible from whole foods.  That way, you will also get fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and many other nutrients (i.e.: magnesium and calcium) that help maintain blood pressure within healthy ranges.

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