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Shaking a Salt Habit

Easy does it!

A DASH of prevention continued...

The real problem is prepared foods, which are loaded with salt -- and the only way you'd know it is to study the label. One brand of chicken vegetable soup on the market contains a whopping 2,398 milligrams of sodium per can, way over the healthy level. A single serving of a leading canned ravioli in tomato and meat sauce tips the scale at 1,173 mg. Grab a bacon-cheeseburger with fries at your local fast-food restaurant and you'll consume about 1,000 milligrams of sodium -- and that's before you reach for the salty french fries.

Luckily, there are low-salt soups and nuts out there, along with many other kinds of prepared foods. You just have to look carefully and study the labels. I've begun to take the time to cook my own meals more often -- not just because I can control how much salt they contain, but also because I usually can add an extra serving or two of vegetables. And hitting or exceeding the five-per-day mark for fruits and vegetables, the DASH findings showed, is as important as lowering salt intake, when it comes to keeping blood pressure levels in the healthy range.

It's working for me. Two months after banishing the saltshaker, my blood pressure has dropped back into the normal range. And this reformed saltoholic is determined to keep it that way.

Peter Jaret is a freelance writer in Petaluma, Calif., who has written for Health, Hippocrates, and many other national publications.

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