Most Americans consume too much sodium despite knowing how bad it is for their long-term health. But it’s a hard addiction to break. Most of our consumed sodium comes from salt, which is composed of two minerals: sodium and chloride. US dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake to about 2,300 mg a day, which is the equivalent of one teaspoon of table salt. Our bodies need sodium to function properly, but too much can cause a myriad of health problems.
Our palates have become accustomed to the flavor of salt, so when it’s not there, food doesn’t taste right to us. Some restaurants use excessive amounts of salt as a cheap way to add flavor to food and even to some drinks. (Margarita, anyone?)
What we sprinkle on our food is the least of our sodium intake. Packaged foods are high in sodium because it is used as a preservative. Salt is also added to mixed spices and to sauces, which also tend to have a lot of sugar. So that barbecue sauce you’re slathering on those ribs is giving you a doubly explosive health bomb.
To wean yourself from a salt addiction, start by turning the heat up when flavoring your food. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their fiery kick, stimulates the same area of the brain as salt. Research indicates that people who like hot, spicy foods consume less sodium and have lower blood pressure.
Second, put away the salt shaker. Or even better, stop keeping salt in your pantry. I do not use a shaker at all. I keep one in case someone visiting asks for it, but otherwise I do not have it on the table. When I prepare food for myself, I make it very spicy; I’ve been told I make it almost too spicy (no such thing). I have a variety of organic peppers which add the heat including Aleppo pepper, a variety of chili peppers, crushed jalapenos, and others. My organic spice cabinet is large and extensive. (Maybe I should be called Spice Girl rather than Fit Fit Girl, but I digress.) Another less spicy but tasty option is start with salt-substitute spices like Mrs. Dash and ease into adding fresh organic peppers over time.
As with everything fitness-and health-related, change does not come overnight. It will take a while for your taste buds to acclimate and it will take your body some time to reverse the effects of excessive salt usage. Remember, your body needs some sodium to function properly, so keep your intake of sodium to about 2000 mg a day, which is a healthy amount. Cut your added salt intake step-by-step, and within three weeks to a month, you will have successfully created a new habit of eliminating added salt completely from your diet. Your taste buds and your body will thank you and your salt-free life will taste good and healthy.
Magdalena is the owner of the Be Fit Fit Personal Training Studio (www.befitfit.biz). Visit her “Be Fit Fit” blog at www.verdenews.com.