Q. I happened across a study showing that low-sodium diets don’t offer benefits to people who aren’t otherwise at risk for heart disease. I realized that I’ve been religiously following a low-sodium diet for years, since it was advised for the general population. I’ve completely lost my taste for salt and avoid it whenever possible, but I am not at risk for heart disease.
I wondered what would happen if I changed. So just for the heck of it, I began adding some sea salt to my food. (Sea salt tastes really good.)
After a while, I noticed something odd. Whereas I had suffered screamingly painful leg cramps at night for years (as long as I had been avoiding salt), they disappeared. Coincidence? I think not.
A. Sodium has long been vilified by public health officials. An eight-year study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 4, 2011) showed, however, that people consuming the least sodium in their diets had the highest mortality.
Another study found that low intake of sodium was linked to an increase in stress hormones (adrenaline, renin and aldosterone), which might have a negative impact on cardiovascular health (American Journal of Hypertension, January 2012).
Those who are salt-sensitive or have heart disease may indeed benefit from a low-salt diet. Someone like you, though, may discover that too little sodium can sometimes have negative consequences. Many readers report that pickle juice or yellow mustard, both high in sodium, can help relieve muscle cramps.
Q. What food do I need to eat for deficiency of potassium?
A. Here is a list of potassium-rich foods: artichokes, apricots, asparagus, avocado, bananas, beets, bell peppers, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, chard, mushrooms, nectarines, oranges, potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Email them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”
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