Karin & David Henderson

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Salt And Potassium: Keeping A Healthy Balance In Your Diet

Salt Intake: How Do You Compare?


The average person consumes about 6 to 18 grams of salt daily. That's roughly one to three teaspoonfuls. Your body actually needs only about 2300 mgms. of salt a day and if you suffer from Meniere's disease, too much salt may cause problems for you.


Reducing the amount of sodium you consume may help you reduce or avoid high blood pressure. High blood pressure, is more likely to lead to heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States.  High blood pressure may also be linked to some symptoms of Meniere's disease.


The American Heart Association recommendations healthy American adults should reduce their sodium intake to no more than 2300 mgs per day. This is about 1-1/4 teaspoons of sodium chloride (salt). Many foods in their natural state contain sodium, but most sodium in our diet is added to food while it's being commercially processed or prepared at home. That's why you need to be aware of both natural and added sodium content when you choose foods to lower your sodium intake. When buying prepared and pre-packaged foods, read the labels.


Watch for the words soda and sodium and the symbol Na on labels - these words show that sodium compounds are present.


Eating more meals away from home? Controlling your sodium intake doesn't need to spoil the pleasure of a restaurant meal: just order selectively. Don't use the salt shaker. Use the peppershaker or mill. Be familiar with low-sodium foods and look for them on restaurant menus. When you order, be specific about what you want and how you want your food prepared. Request that they prepare your dish without salt. Add fresh lemon juice to fish and vegetables instead of salt. Heart Smart options are available in many restaurants.


If you have been diagnosed with any kind of heart condition, or possible even Meniere's disease, chances are that you have been put on a low salt diet...told to watch your salt intake and maybe even given a diuretic. This is a drug intended to increase the excretion of urine. There is another kind of diuretic that manipulates the excretion of salt (sodium chloride) in the urine and to a lesser extent, that of potassium.  It is not necessary to go into great detail as to what each does. For our purposes, we need to recognize that salt and potassium are important in the life of someone with suspected heart conditions. It is also a recommendation in people with Meniere's disease and other conditions. So basically you have to watch that you are not getting too much salt, yet enough potassium. And how much is too much or not enough...and how do you adjust your life the easiest way possible. We'll work with potassium first, as we usually deal with it last!




It is an essential part of all living cells.  Potassium is a mineral similar to salt. It is essential to many biological "reactions" including the muscles contraction, energy release, and the transmission of nerve impulses. so you can see it's a real "essential". Potassium DEFICIENCY, like TOO MUCH POTASSIUM, is to be avoided. If you are eating a typical diet, you will get more than enough. The potassium CONTENT of the adult body is approximately 250 grams. A potassium intake between 1875 and 5600 milligrams per day is generally considered adequate for adults. The average dietary intake of potassium is between 2000-3000 mg. Potassium is readily found in many foods. Some potassium is also added in food processing. The richest dietary sources are unprocessed foods, especially fruits, many vegetables, and fresh meats. As a form of medical treatment in several conditions, it is not uncommon for physicians to recommend salt restriction and diuretics. Diuretics can produce dramatic effects on urine output/excretion, but may also result in salt or potassium depletion. It is important to work closely with your doctor in monitoring the intake of potassium. Routine blood would be done to check the levels. You want to make sure you are getting enough of it. I have included a very shortened list of potassium-rich foods. If you are like me, and like to nibble on something while working (and thinking), make yourself a selection of these and keep them in the fridge. They won't go bad.


The first group has the highest 600mg content of potassium: for:

  • 12 dried apricot halves
  • 5 dried peach halves
  • 1 cup of lima beans
  • 1 cup any type cooked legumes
  • 1 cup cooked spinach
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • salt substitute 1/4 tsp


The next group has 400 mgms. per

  • 3 ounces of chicken
  • 3 ounces of cod or halibut
  • 1/2 cup cubed of avocados
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup cubed cantaloupe


Examples of 300 mgms of potassium-rich foods are:

  • 1/2 cup of tomato juice
  • 2 ounces of mixed nuts (and who could stop at two ounces!!!)
  • 2 ounces of cashews


When people are on diuretics, and use the kind that is not "Potassium sparing", they may experience "potassium depletion". It occurs when the salt is withdrawn to reduce fluid levels...usually in the lungs, but takes the potassium along with it. This would show up as generalized weakness and a slower than normal heart rate. And it's a bit hard to determine as someone who has this condition would already be weak and show little interest in their surroundings. But it is more pronounced. Also the doctor or health team would be aware that this person is on this kind of the hospital.  At home, it's a bit more difficult to recognize.  So you would need to work closely with your pharmacist and doctor.


Salt And Its Hidden Sources.


Like many others, you may find your doctor suggesting that you "cut out" salt...or "don't add" any salt...or "reduce" your salt intake. And how are you supposed to know how much is too much...How can you tell that you are "getting" too much. Salt is naturally in many foods and used indirectly in food preparations. It is also often used as a preservative. If you don't read labels, you might be very surprised as to what you will your ankles or in your chest. How can you eat out without getting into trouble...These are very real and normal challenges that you face.  Nobody wants willingly overeat anything, especially salt.


  • "Normal" salt diet has a salt intake of 1100 - 3300 mg/day
  • "High" salt diet has a salt intake of 4000 - 6000 mg/day
  • "Low" salt diet has a salt intake of 400 - 1000 mg/day


Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Reducing the amount of salt (sodium) may help you reduce or avoid the risk of high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes increased pressure on the walls of the arteries, and over a long period of time, it wears them out.  And people with high blood pressure are more

likely to develop heart disease and stroke. So if you know how much you need for healthy living, you can decide to adjust your food intake. This is your responsibility: not your doctor's.


Here is a bit of a shocker...The average person eats about 6 to 18 grams of salt daily. That's roughly one to three TEASPOONFULS. Your body actually needs only about 0.5 grams of salt each day. In the American Heart Association's sodium recommendations, healthy adults should reduce their sodium intake to no more than 2300 mgms per day. This is about 1-1/4 teaspoons of sodium chloride (salt). Here are sodium equivalents in

the diet:


  • 1 Gram equals 1000 mgms.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 500 mgms sodium (salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1000 mgms sodium
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1500 mgms sodium
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2000 mgms sodium
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda = 1000 mgms sodium


Many foods in their natural state already contain sodium. But a lot of it is also added to food while it's being commercially processed or prepared at home. That's why you need to be aware of both "natural" and "added" salt content when you are preparing your foods or buying them. When buying prepared and pre-packaged foods, read the labels. Many different sodium "compounds" are added to foods. These are listed on food labels.

Watch for the words "soda" and "sodium" and the symbol "Na" on labels. These words show that sodium compounds (salt in different forms) are present and that's all adding to your salt intake.


I mentioned before "If you don't read labels, you might be very surprised as to what you will your ankles or chest." You can quite easily tell if someone has had too much salt. It stays in the body and shows up as swelling of the hands, or legs (usually the ankles) and the lungs.  Here it could lead to breathing difficulties. Your doctor would have to prescribe the appropriate diuretic if they suspected any lung involvement.  But if it's in your ankles, just elevating them can often correct the problem. And your hands are the same. But try to discover  what seemed to cause the swelling and then avoid repeating the activity in the future.


How can you eat out and still stay within your limits? Order selectively. Use pepper. Become familiar with foods low in salt and look for them on the menu. A heart or other symbol often identifies foods known to be low in salt or prepared for special cardiac diets. Restaurants are now very aware and concerned about food allergies. As side issue, many people have allergies to ingredients such as MSG. It is high in salt as well. So if you are allergic to it, advise the manager of the restaurant. They do not want a problem on their hands. It is perfectly acceptable to be specific about what you want  and how you want your food prepared. Request that they prepare your dish without salt. Use fresh lemon juice for fish and vegetables instead of salt.  Here is a very practical site for salt information.


Altogether, become a little daring in your meals. Become creative in your meal preparation and experiment. Use fresh herbs and spices to bring out the natural flavors of food. Use lemon juice, wine, and fresh ground pepper to accent natural flavors. Marinade meat in orange or pineapple juice. For poultry, use garlic, mushrooms, cranberries, orange slices, wine, curry, paprika, parsley, sage, and onion. For fish, use a bayleaf, marjoram, onion, fresh mushrooms, dry mustard, green pepper, and ginger. For pork, use applesauce, apples, garlic, onion, sage. Use seasoning "POWDERS" instead of seasoned "SALTS". For example, use garlic powder instead of garlic salt. Do not add salt or "condiments" (special pre-packaged sauces) to your food: they could be very high in salt. Avoid foods prepared in a sauce unless they prepare it especially to your requirements. Eat salad instead of soup and have the dressing on the side. Use unsalted salad dressing or plain oil and vinegar. "Toss" your own salad.  Have fresh fruit or fruit juice as an appetizer or dessert. A plate of assorted, cut up, fresh fruit is a lovely "coffee meeting" snack.


If you have Meniere's disease, you should read labels carefully. In addition to sodium, watch out for the following ingredients that are also high in sodium: "hydrolyzed vegetable protein, baking powder, sodium nitrate, sodium benzoate, salt, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), soy sauce, sodium ascorbate, whey solids, monosodium glutamate (MSG or Accent)". These are used in the foundations of food preparation and may not be recognized as "salt". Salt is often used as a preservative and so it follows that processed foods, especially canned soups and vegetables, commercially prepared meals, processed meats and cheeses, can have lots of "hidden" salt.


Substitute fresh meats and fresh or frozen vegetables prepared without salt. Again, read labels. I discovered that salt is often used in preparing frozen foods. Look for prepared and convenience foods that say "low sodium" or "salt free".  Keep fresh vegetables and fruits handy for snacking instead of salty crackers and chips. But know also that some of these will have pesticides and preservatives... another story, but equally harmful in a different way. Also...realize that some of the salt substitutes often contain part sodium and part potassium. And some are totally potassium. Then you run into the danger of overloading yourself with potassium.


Your doctor's office should have print-outs of these kinds of additives. If you are not sure about the actual amount of salt in a particular food product, but would really like to try it, call the toll free number usually listed on the package. Most companies are very willing to help you adapt your diet, using their products. (Your doctor's office manager would probably appreciate a copy of the research you are doing.)  Another important  point to remember is that some non-prescription medications such as antacids, alkalizers, laxatives, cough medicines, pain relievers, and sleeping pills may also be high in sodium.


Also, you may recall that softened water could  be very high in sodium.

Let's stop here. This is a lot of technical information to absorb. If you feel the need to do more research, type in "sodium chloride" or "table salt" or just "salt" at What you will find, will keep you VERY busy for a long time. So how can you use this information sensibly, even if you are not on any diuretics or under a doctor's care? Request the two lists (noted in this article). They are practical

information for everyone. Read and note the foods you like. Cross out what you really dislike. Keep the list where you would find "shopping tools", pens, requests, and errand things. Now you have become aware of potassium in your body. 


Chances are you don't need to adjust anything. In the case of salt, consider your intake more carefully. We all eat too much because it's used so liberally. We have learned from years of research, that less salt is best, and can lead us into a more desirable lifestyle.

By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.



Thank you for visiting our website, we hope you found the information here helpful.  If you would like to know more about the system we talk about throughout the site, please use this link to go to the Meniere's Disease System Information page.  This is the same program that David, Michael and numerous others have been using with great success.

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