The World Health Organization recently published recommendations regarding the amount of sodium and potassium that should a person consume in a day. The need for these recommendations comes from the large number of people with hypertension, high blood pressure being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke. The WHO researches has shown that most people consuming too much sodium and too little potassium compared to daily needs. The recommendations are for adults (considered in these recommendations that people over 16 years) and also for children over 2 years.
Specifically, WHO recommends that an adult to consume less than 2 g of sodium per day (which means 5 g of salt) and potassium at least 3.51 g per day. These amounts should be adjusted according to the children’s energy needs.
The WHO provides lists of the amount of salt and potassium that exists in food, recalling that processed foods contain the highest concentration of salt and, through processing, it is reduced the amount of potassium in food. Products with the highest amount of salt are concentrates soups, soy sauce, and generally ready-made sauces, snacks, sausages, cheese, butter, margarine. An unprocessed food contains obviously a much smaller amount of salt and they should represent the highest percentage of what we eat every day.
On the other hand, foods rich in potassium, which should be included in the diet, are beans and peas, nuts and peanuts, vegetables – spinach, kale, parsley, carrots and fruits – bananas.
The WHO releases the press in late January, where are mentioned the measures that the authorities should take to reduce sodium intake and increasing potassium consumption: food labeling, to educate the consumer, review national nutrition guidelines and negotiating with food manufacturer’s to reduce the amount of salt in food processing.
Find the recommendations on the WHO websites:
World Health Organization. Sodium intake for adults and children. Geneva, Switzerland: 2012 Available here.
World Health Organization. The potassium intake for adults and children. Geneva, Switzerland: 2012 Available here.
World Health Organization. WHO issues new guidance on dietary salt and potassium [press release] January 31, 2013 Available here
Note that the recommendations are available for anyone over 16 years (not only patients with hypertension), including pregnant or nursing women, except certain categories of patients who have customized recommendations. If you find it difficult to check food labels every time, do at least once such exercises to see what level of consumption will reach the two minerals. In addition, avoid processed foods, fast foods, snacks. All this “effort” is needed to prevent hypertension, which in recent years has seen a strong increase in younger age becoming lower.
The WHO will revise and publish also recommendations on the amount of fat and carbohydrates to prevent diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.