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Consumer Reports: An easy cooking tip to cut back on salt

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

Ninety percent of Americans consume more than the recommended maximum of 2,300 milligrams of salt per day. Cutting down on your salt intake is an important change to make in this new year. As the Health Team at Consumer Reports tells us, one recent study found eating spicy foods could make that change easier.

Spicy foods may not only add some oomph to your meals, but may be giving your health a boost too. A recent study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension –– found people who enjoyed eating spicy foods not only preferred less salty food, but ate an estimated half-teaspoon less of it per day and had lower blood pressure.

A half-teaspoon of salt has 1,150 milligrams of sodium, half of the 2,300 milligram daily maximum recommended by the American Heart Association. The researchers found that the spiciness from the hot peppers seems to activate a certain part of the brain that perceives saltiness, potentially tricking the brain into thinking that the food was saltier than it was.

And experts think that this might be a good strategy for limiting your salt intake. Too much sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Which means one prescription for better health could already be in your kitchen.

Consumer Reports says other foods can have various health benefits as well including potatoes, which might help lower blood pressure. Potatoes often get a bad rap because of their high carbohydrate content, but both white and sweet potatoes are high in fiber and rich in potassium, which has been shown to help lower the risk of hypertension.

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