Drop that salt shaker. Pick up a banana. In fact, grab a couple. It’ll do your heart a world of good.
Harvard scientists in a study that involved more than 10,000 adults found that less sodium and more potassium in a diet was associated with a lower risk of heart disease. It’s no surprise that excessive salt is unhealthy. But this study actually quantified how bad it is.
It’s a tale told by our urine. Testing it is the most accurate way to measure sodium levels. Samples were taken from study volunteers, who were all in generally healthy shape. Scientists then tracked participants for years to determine whether any suffered adverse cardiovascular events.
U.S. dietary guidelines suggest we consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. That’s about a teaspoon of table salt. The study’s investigators found that for every 1,000 milligrams of additional sodium excreted in the urine daily, the risk of heart disease went up 18%. If sodium dropped by 1,000 milligrams, heart disease declined by the same percentage.
Researchers found that a higher sodium-to-potassium ratio — more salt, less potassium — led to a significantly higher cardiovascular risk.
Unfortunately, many modern foods, especially commercially packaged, processed and prepared foods, are swimming in salt. Sources of potassium are legion, of course, and not just limited to the goodly banana. Potassium is found in beans, nuts, leafy greens, dairy and starchy vegetables.
Potassium, scientists say, relaxes blood vessels, decreases blood pressure and helps rid the body of sodium.
So sprinkling too much salt on your food is a bad idea if you want to live a healthy life. In fact, one might say it’s bananas.