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.
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.
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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.