First For Women

Do I really need to cut back on salt?


Q: My blood pressure was slightly high at my last physical, so my doctor recommende­d that I cut back on salt. But I rarely use it—I cook from scratch and mostly use herbs. I do season my meals with salt, but I don’t think I overdo it. Is that a problem?

A: Most of the excess sodium in our diet comes from packaged foods, so the best way to keep sodium levels in check is by sticking with mostly whole or homemade foods. Since you already do that, reaching for the saltshaker is unlikely to have harmful effects, and it actually allows you to control how much you use.

But there’s another way to offset the effects of excess sodium: Eat more foods with potassium. The mineral, which is abundant in fruits and vegetables, counterbal­ances the effects of sodium in the body, and researcher­s found that people who eat the most produce blunt the negative effects of salt. Some of the best sources: apricots, prunes, raisins, lentils and squash.

Congratula­tions! Consider supplement­ing with activated charcoal, especially before a high-fat meal. The supplement­s are typically used for relief of gas and GI issues, but a new study from Japan found that activated charcoal prevented weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet. The scientists credit activated charcoal’s ability to block fat absorption, and they say it would have the same benefit in humans.

Just beware that activated charcoal shouldn’t be taken daily for more than a week. For best results, supplement 3 to 4 hours before or after a high-fat meal. One to try: NOW Foods Activated Charcoal, available at drugstores.

Bonus: Activated charcoal increases the eliminatio­n of dietary cholestero­l, triglyceri­des and fatty acids by up to 400%. In fact, prior research found that it can help reduce cholestero­l by 41%.

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