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Americans Advised to Cut Salt, Follow Thirst

Report Lowers Recommended Salt Intake, Eases Water Rules

Fulfilling Your Thirst continued...

"Moreover, we concluded that on a daily basis, people get adequate amounts of water from normal drinking behavior -- consumption of beverages at meals and in other social situations -- and by letting their thirst guide them," says Appel, who is also professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Following your thirst may work for healthy, sedentary adults, but experts say there are also important exceptions to that rule.

"If you're active, participating in exercise, living in an environment that's a little bit warmer or drier, then I think you'll have to look at more physiological signs as opposed to looking at thirst," says Jackie Berning, PhD, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"You have to look at the color of your urine," says Berning, who is associate professor of nutrition at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "If it's that dark apple juice color, then despite the fact that you're not thirsty, you've got to put more fluids in."

Berning says that among active people, dehydration is the No. 1 danger she sees. If someone is not optimally hydrated, any type of stress, such as a change in altitude, activity, or temperature, could put their health at risk.

Pass on Salt, Reach for Potassium

The report sets a maximum upper limit on salt at 5.8 grams (5,800 mg) per day. But researchers say more than 95% of Canadian men aged 31 to 50 and 75% of American women in that age group regularly consume more salt than that.

But it's not the saltshaker's fault. More than three-quarters of that salt comes from eating processed or prepackaged foods. A one-cup serving of most commercial canned soups contains about 1,000 mg of sodium, which is only 500 mg shy of the recommended daily amount.

Berning says that aside from reading the label on packaged foods, the best way to cut back on salt is to make dinner yourself rather they buying it in a box or a can so you can control the amount of salt that goes in.

In addition to reducing salt intake, the report calls for Americans to get more potassium in their diet to help lower the risk of high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and stroke. It recommends at least 4.7 grams of the nutrient per day for all adults. Potassium helps blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure.

Researchers found most American women consume only about half of the daily recommended amount of potassium, and men only fare slightly better. Foods rich in potassium include spinach, cantaloupes, almonds, mushrooms, bananas, oranges, grapefruits, and potatoes.

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