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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 11, 2007

10 Ways to Reduce Salt

By Mark Sisson
16 Comments

I caught a recent article about the widespread concern over the massive amount of salt found in the Standard American Diet. Because the average American gets 90% of his or her calories from processed foods, and because processed foods are typically very high in salt (sodium), this is a health issue on an epidemic scale. In fact, 77% of our sodium intake is from processed foods.

Salt in moderation actually is health-promoting. It helps your muscles contract properly, assists with nerve function, and regulates fluid balance. But most folks consume far too much of it. For example, you might follow the Primal Health lifestyle, but douse your veggies and meats frequently in high-sodium condiments, forgetting to keep an eye on such items. High sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure (hypertension), which exerts enormous pressure and stress on your vital organs, particularly your heart. If you are stressed, you need to pay particular attention to the amount of sodium in your diet. In general, 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams is the most you want to consume in a day.


Some tips:


10. Make your own condiments.

Rather than trying out that Cilantro Caesar, whip up your own mayo quickly by emulsifying olive oil and organic eggs, and sprinkle in your own herbs and cheeses. You’ll not only avoid sodium, you’ll avoid cheap vegetable oils and chemicals deleterious to your health.

9. Choose smart condiments.

Avoid things like soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. Go for Bragg’s aminos, low-sodium soy sauce, or vinegars instead. For any flavor component, you can usually find a fresher, healthier alternative. I’d love to hear your tips.

8. Watch portions!

Did you know that just one tablespoon of soy sauce contains over 1,000 milligrams of sodium? How many of us eat 2 or 3 tablespoons when we go for sushi? Watch the portions of sodium-rich foods and condiments.

7. Avoid cured meats.

Standard bacon, sausages, and lox all contain massive amounts of salt. But you can easily get around this by first cutting portions and second going for uncured varieties of your favorite decadent meats. Reserve salamis and prosciutto for special occasions only.

6. Don’t eat processed when fresh will do.

Canned and packaged foods – even veggies and vegetarian entrees – are usually loaded with sodium. Choose fresh or frozen foods with little to no sodium. Your best bet is following the outer perimeter of the grocery store, choosing only fresh veggies and fruits, meats, eggs, dairy and (unsalted) nuts.

5. Watch for “healthy” foods high in sodium.

Sure, nuts are a gift from nature: rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and vitamins. But the salted, tinned varieties are terrible on your cardiovascular system and kidneys. Buy raw, organic, and unsalted nuts.

4. Read the labels and know the terms.

MSG, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, and sodium nitrate all boil down to the same thing: sodium! Check the nutrition label to make sure the item doesn’t contain these ingredients, or, if it does, that the level is under 15% of your total daily limit. (There will be exceptions, but that’s a good general rule of thumb.)

3. Choose low-sodium products.

Sometimes we do need processed items for cooking – like butter and chicken stock. Choose the unsalted or low-sodium options.

2. Stop using salt in cooking.

You’ll find that you really don’t need salt in most recipes, period. Just leave it out.

1. Rely on flavor, not saltiness.

Food manufacturers pour on the salt because it’s cheap, cheap, cheap. Our mouths get accustomed to the flavor and lose the ability to appreciate other tastes that are just as pleasurable as salt, if not more so. So try out fresh herbs and spices instead for maximum flavor without the sodium.

Marc Shandro Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

How to Stop Heartburn Naturally

The 10 All-Time Most Tempting Junk Foods

How Our Eyes Deceive Our Appetites

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16 Comments on "10 Ways to Reduce Salt"

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Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton
8 years 9 months ago

I think a major problem is the amount of salt that people put on their food when ready to consume. I don’t know about you folks, but my grandfather puts a lot of salt on his food right before he takes a bite. He is 87 years old though, so go figure…

McFly
McFly
8 years 9 months ago

This does not bode well for me. I put A1 sauce on everything. I put A1 sauce on my broccoli. I’d put A1 sauce on my ice cream if nobody was looking. I think the main ingredient in A1 sauce is salt, either that or bold-manliness.

Catherine the Great
Catherine the Great
8 years 9 months ago

I actually have a low taste threshold for salt. My husband loves sprinkling everything with that insidious rock. I just can’t do it. Any salt added to me tastes like a salt lick. I say, as you did in the post, let the natural flavors shine!

Joe Matasic
Joe Matasic
8 years 9 months ago
I’ve read that salt intake only matters for people who are salt sensitive. Supposedly about 5% of the people. I’ve had high blood pressure since I was 18 and overweight. Also a history of it, since my dad has too but never been overweight till maybe now. I didn’t use to put salt on anything on doctor’s orders. Now I use way more salt, it think it brings out the natural flavors. My blood pressure is down to normal (120/70) and my drugs have been cut in half. Probably the weight loss from low-carb. I also rarely eat processed foods.
Kurt
Kurt
8 years 9 months ago

There is something wrong with your numbers:
“Because the average American gets 90% of his or her calories from processed foods, and because processed foods are typically very high in salt (sodium), this is a health issue on an epidemic scale. In fact, 77% of our sodium intake is from processed foods.”
If 90% of calories are from processed foods, and 77% of sodium is from processed foods, processed foods have to have a lower sodium/calorie ratio than non-processed foods.

Please fix.

Jaime
8 years 9 months ago

I’ve always wondered about this, and hopefully someone knows – I have low-to-normal blood pressure (usually 110/70, but recently 90/60 or something half-dead like that), and I do love salty food – do I need to worry about my salt intake, or only if my blood pressure starts to creep up?

Moe
Moe
8 years 9 months ago

The questions exist: How much salt do we need, and how much is too much?

Does this change for a person with an active lifestyle?

How is water intake related to this?

Aaron
8 years 9 months ago

Kurt-

All this suggests is that the salt intake from unprocessed foods is higher than processed foods. This simply speaks to how much sodium people add to their unprocessed foods, and not to how much sodium is in processed foods. Processed foods have a lot of salt. Unprocessed foods, after we start shaking the salt shaker like crazy, can have more.

Kurt
Kurt
8 years 9 months ago

Aaron,
I guess I never really thought of adding salt to something that comes in a can, but who knows, perhaps that’s the new thing to do.

Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 9 months ago
“I’ve read that salt intake only matters for people who are salt sensitive. Supposedly about 5% of the people. “ I thought that 5% figure seemed low and did some googling: Weinberger noted that some Americans are more likely than others to be salt sensitive. These include older persons, African Americans, and those with a family member who is salt sensitive or who have a parent, sibling, or child with hypertension. Based on the researchers’ earlier studies, he estimates that about 26 percent of Americans with normal blood pressure and about 58 percent of those with hypertension are salt sensitive.… Read more »
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Krista
Krista
8 years 8 months ago
Well first i am a huge fan of Bragg’s products! Bragg’s amino’s are what i use for everything, and the apple cider vinegar HAS changed the way i eat and drink for that matter. Another amazing way to change up your selection of condiments is silken tofu, you can use a food processor and make a mayo like sub, and add any spices or herbs you want. I have been working my way to a raw diet but still enjoy true to the OGs of Asian cuisine. I have also found that by not eating meat i naturally have cut… Read more »
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4 years 7 months ago

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