If you have high blood pressure you have probably been told to stay off the salt. This is possibly also true for you if you are at risk of a stroke or heart attack and certain other conditions. The overlooked (or unknown?) factor is that it isn’t so much that it is too much sodium, it is not enough potassium.
In natural foods such as fruit and vegetables, the potassium to sodium ratio is on average 20:1 – meaning twenty times more potassium than sodium. This is precisely the kind of ratio we need with potassium and sodium for the channels in our cells to work effectively. Too much of either and there are problems… serious problems that can and do result in death.
Potassium needs to be increased, and if it is increased enough, sodium need not be decreased. Some diets are so high in sodium that achieving a potassium balance of 20 times that amount could prove impossible without reducing the sodium. So sodium reduction does often have its value. However it is important to understand that reducing sodium alone is not working as well as it could for most people because of the potassium factor – they aren’t increasing it at the same time so the imbalance may well remain. Plus, it can prove very difficult to reduce sodium to an amount that reaches potassium balance due to processed foods containing so much sodium – people often “fail” such diets when an easier solution would be to take the pressure off (somewhat, not totally) from sodium reduction and place it on potassium consumption. People are more likely to comply with adding to the diet than taking away.
Finnish Your Salt
An experiment was started in Finland in 1970 and is still going. All the salt was changed from just the sodium chloride to a special blend of sodium, potassium, magnesium and lysine. In the Finnish research, the special salt was used nationwide—even by the local McDonald’s! The results were so outstanding that it is unbelievable and unacceptable that similar measures aren’t taken in all countries. 75 to 80% decrease in stroke and coronary heart disease mortality, life span increase of 6 to 7 years and 10mmHg decrease in blood pressure across the nation.
We can access a similar salt, called Cardia… from this link:
In addition to the statistically significant reduction in blood pressure observed in the Cardia group compared to the regular salt group, the following results were also reported:
– Cardia did not interfere with the effects of any of the antihypertensive medications and was shown to be especially beneficial to those patients on beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.
– There was a statistically significant increase in potassium excretion.
– There was a statistically significant decrease in sodium excretion.
– Magnesium excretion was increased, although not statistically significantly.
– Patients were unable to distinguish Cardia from regular salt, which confirms the findings from other clinical trials and patient taste tests.
Double Blinded with Salt
Another issue with focusing solely on decreasing sodium is a link to insulin resistance. This study was done in October of this year (2010):
Low-salt diet is associated with an increase in IR. The impact of our findings on the pathogenesis of diabetes and cardiovascular disease needs further investigation.
Study done, in December:
Most patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus do not meet NHF sodium or potassium intake guidelines. A diet high in sodium and low in potassium may contribute to the development of hypertension and to resistance to blood-pressure-lowering therapies.
Dietary potassium intake may serve as an important countervailing influence on the effects of salt in the vasculature.
They are the most recent… however there are previous ones and the studies continue.
Well, if you were the average pill popping majority, you would get some potassium pills. The fact that you’re reading this suggests you are not the majority so let’s get funky.
Raw food! In particular, raw green leaves. Green leaves are the highest level super-food for humanity’s particular design. Cooking destroys pretty much everything in food and to test this theory one needs only to put one’s hand into a pot of boiling water or onto a hot plate and see how well the constituents of your cells fare.
When it comes to minerals specifically, such as potassium, water is the death knell as it pulls minerals out of the food into the water. Studies showed that even soaking in cold water can do this if it soaks long enough – osmosis is no myth, we can surmise. Apparently, uncooked rice has 9mg of sodium and 214mg of potassium yet cooked it reverses: 282mg sodium and 70mg potassium (maybe they salted the water? Either way, that’s a big drop of potassium). I’ll assume I don’t need to convince you that raw is better than cooked and move on. (I don’t recommend raw rice btw… I don’t recommend rice at all)
Green leaves, when chewed like an ape, are chewed until they are liquid in the mouth before swallowed. This breaks all the cell walls in the plant, releasing the nutrients and exposes the carbohydrates to the enzymes in the saliva. Digestion begins in the mouth. Long pulverising also flushes the minerals around the mouth to mend cavities. Teeth are mended from the mouth fluids as they have no blood supply themselves, and together with calcium plied into the saliva by the body, the food we eat was designed to help teeth, not harm them. That is precisely what Weston Price found in his study of the perfect teeth of the indigenous peoples. I found my son forages in the garden and finds wild greens and puts them into his mouth – he could do this all day in his wanderings – and chews them until they disappear. I guess it is an instinct we eventually suppress. We mimic this mineralisation by using fluoride toothpaste… however sodium fluoride is a toxin and the fluorine that is suited to our body is calcium-fluoro-apatite – the fluorine found in nature. Demineralisation is worth learning about. The main cause of cavities is bacteria, so rinse with weak hydrogen peroxide or chlorine dioxide, especially if you don’t eat a raw vegan diet.
This is a great page about demineralisation, although it aims to sell you a particular toothpaste.
Pre-Chewed Greens – Smoothies
Green smoothies are also pulverised in a similar manner, and without them, I couldn’t get my daughter to eat greens so they are a god send. However, I have taught her to chew her smoothie a little, to help the digestion in the mouth. They taste like fruit unless you use strong leaves like beet leaves.
Sources of Potassium
Rockmelon (cantaloupe) is the blood pressure food medicine of choice. It helps remove sodium and is high in potassium, 825mg in half a rockmelon.
More info here on rockmelon.
Heart Beat Savvy Salad:
1 cucumber – deseeded and thinly sliced
half a rockmelon – thinly sliced
1tsp red chilli – finely chopped
1-2tsp coconut sugar (brown sugar if necessary)
2Tbsp lime juice
quarter cup coriander leaves – chopped
Mix the lot in a bowl. Eat at room temperature (cold food has less flavour and no aroma). Is a great side dish. I sometimes add a teaspoon of Thai fish sauce to this, but that adds 300mg of sodium to the dish.
Dried fruit is extremely high in potassium.
Here are charts on potassium vs sodium that I like: http://www.hinduism.co.za/food1.htm
One cup full of coconut water has more electrolytes than a sports drink and more potassium than a banana and so many other goodies it should be an every day part of a healthy diet.
My personal small list of potassium foods:
spinach, chard, dried apricots, avocado, rockmelon.
Not So Good Sources of Potassium…
Avoid canned foods… oh let’s cut the crap – avoid processed foods altogether! Why shop outside the green grocers? Anyway, back to canned… for example, an asparagus in nature has 2mg of sodium and 335mg of potassium (so much for 20 times, that’s over 100 times more potassium!) yet canned asparagus has 236gm sodium and 166mg potassium – we’ve lost potassium (in the processing) and gained a hundred times more sodium.
I should add that I do know many doctors tell patients to avoid potassium rich foods and potassium supplements when on blood pressure or heart medications. Check with your doctor, if s/he is a good one, that it isn’t just the fact that potassium is a SALT in foods and supps, and they’ve been taught to tell patients to avoid salt. Obviously you can see the flaw in that, so perhaps point it out to the doctor… if that is what the concern with potassium is. If it isn’t, have him or her explain exactly WHAT is their concern with potassium.
Here is some layman’s general information on potassium. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=90
This is an interesting article that brings in “the K Factor” and discusses more detail of the sodium/potassium connection. http://www.drpasswater.com/nutrition_library/Potassium%20_to%20_Sodium_Ratio.html