10 Ways to Reduce Salt

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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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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16 thoughts on “10 Ways to Reduce Salt”

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  1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. “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.

    from “Study Shows New Link Between Salt Sensitivity And Risk Of Death”
    ScienceDaily (Feb. 20, 2001)

    The study also notes that even for people with normal blood pressure, there is a doubled risk of stroke with high salt/sodium intake. CVD death rates between North America and Japan/Korea are similar overall but nearly mirror opposites in the ratio of heart disease versus stroke deaths. Moreover, the highest stroke rates are in northern Japan, where a traditional diet of salted fish and pickled vegetables got people through long, cold winters.

    I recall reading somewhere that potassium-sodium balance is as important as overall sodium consumption in regulating blood pressure. Most vegetables are naturally high in potassium, so a diet high in produce should be protective against high blood pressure.

  11. 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 a ton of sodium out of my diet anyway.

    In the past few months i have become a farmers market addict. It makes the veggies i need so cheap, and the ability to make my own veggie stock super cheap. All you have to do is throw in 6 carrots, half a head of cabbage, 3 leeks, 3 celery stalks, 2 hand fulls of bean sprouts, 3 med red onions, 5 garlic cloves and the spices you love (i.e thyme,dill,rosemary). You fist brown the veggies in 2 TB of olive oil and then add a gallon of water. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer for two hours. Then use a cheese cloth or colander and strain. YAY little to no sodium its up to you what you throw in and you can do it while your watching a movie or something. Feel free to freeze this and save it for later it makes a lot!
    p.s. If you do still need salt TWO WORDS sea salt!!

    Blessings & Peace,

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