Wonderful, wonderful salt — which makes everything from french fries and chicken breasts to movie theatre popcorn and asparagus spears taste delicious — is an increasingly well-known impediment to optimum health. And according to U.S. government researchers, salt is particularly problematic when you’re deficient in potassium.
The recent findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as reported by Julie Steenhuysen at Reuters — “High salt + low potassium = early death: study” — spell out the severity: study participants who ate a diet high in sodium and low in potassium had a 50-percent increased risk of death from any cause, and a 200-percent increased risk of death from a heart attack. Overconsumption of salt — and apparently most of us are getting twice as much as we need — has also been linked to high blood pressure and stroke. (“The Salt Institute” somewhat predictably challenged these findings.) The other side of the coin is potassium, levels of which are too low in many people, and which could potentially counteract the harmful effects of excessive salt.
So how to cut down on sodium and ensure that you’re getting enough potassium? Cutting down on processed and restaurant foods is one of the best ways to reduce salt intake. The sea salt on your kitchen countertop is far less problematic and, as usual, a case is being made for more home cooking to improve health. As for raising potassium levels, this is best done through dietary changes by adding more fruits and vegetables, in particular spinach, grapes, carrots, sweet potatoes, low fat milk and yogurt.