The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend adults eat no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day. That is about equal to a teaspoon of table salt. However, most adults in the U.S. consume nearly 150% of that recommendation—or about 3,400 mg a day.
Some sodium is necessary to help your nerves and muscles work and to keep fluids balanced throughout your body. However, too much sodium can harm your kidneys and heart and, for people who are sensitive to salt, raise your blood pressure.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to avoid sodium because most of the salt we take in is added before we even buy our food. Foods that are processed, prepackaged or served in restaurants provide 70% of the sodium we eat.
For those not in a position to start cooking all their meals from scratch, new research being presented this week at the Control of Renal Function in Health and Disease Conference offers some hope.
Researchers from Augusta University in Georgia found that rats fed the prebiotic fiber inulin showed some protection from the damaging effects of a high-salt diet. Prebiotic fibers such as inulin are not absorbed by the body but instead move to the large intestine where they are fermented by the healthy bacteria of the microbiome.
Female rats that ate inulin had lower blood pressure than their counterparts that ate a nonfermenting form of fiber. Though male rats did not show this same reduction in blood pressure, both sexes had less damage to their kidneys than the rats not fed inulin.
You can find inulin in vegetables such as onions, artichokes and asparagus and common fiber supplements such as chicory root.
The lead researcher on the study, Justine Abais-Battad, PhD, summed up the growing complexity of nutrition research like hers: “It is becoming clear that we need to think of our diets as a whole, with intertwining effects between each component.”
Researchers at the conference also discussed:
- how past kidney disease may affect pregnant people,
- how intermittent fasting protects mouse kidneys, and
- how vitamin D could help people on a diabetes drug.