Shake the Salt Habit
Sodium attracts and holds water and is found in many foods. In the right amount, it helps maintain the correct balance of fluids in the body. But most of us eat much more sodium than we need. Hidden salt can be found in many processed foods and restaurant meals. Since a high salt intake boosts the risk of high blood pressure, it’s smart to limit yourself to no more than 2,300 mg (about a teaspoon) daily. But reducing the amount of salt you eat won’t just lower your blood pressure. Australian researchers recently found that eating a low-sodium diet can also help keep your blood vessels working properly. The easiest way to reduce the amount of salt you consume is to take the salt shaker off the table. But it’s also important to check food labels. A product labeled “very low sodium” must have less than 35 milligrams of sodium in a serving, and “low-sodium” foods must have less than 140 milligrams of sodium. A food labeled “reduced sodium” must contain 25 percent less sodium than the original product. And watch out for those other seasonings. Soy sauce, steak sauce, bouillon cubes, Worcestershire sauce, and even cooking sherry are all loaded with sodium. Opt instead for low-sodium choices like lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs.
Fast Food = Sluggish Circulation
Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have confirmed that eating a fast-food breakfast high in salt, trans fat, refined carbs, and sugar can slow blood flow and have a detrimental impact on blood vessel tone.
The Not So Sweet Truth
Sugar—often listed on labels as sucrose or high fructose corn syrup—doesn’t just pack on the pounds. It also damages your vascular system by triggering inflammation, increasing triglycerides, and driving down HDL levels. Based on recent studies, the American Heart Association now recommends limiting your intake of added sugar to no more than 150 calories daily. TIP: When shopping for leafy greens, always pick deep green varieties. The darker the green, the more antioxidants and nitric oxide–boosting nutrients it contains.
Chocolate As Medicine?
You Bet! A recent study in the journal Circulation found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate improve circulation. Flavonoids are naturally occurring antioxidants that may help lower blood pressure and decrease cholesterol, both of which are factors that contribute to endothelial dysfunction. Just make sure you bypass that Snickers bar in favor of no more than one ounce of dark chocolate that contains at least 60 percent cacao.
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