Salt is one of the most widely used condiments in the world, but too much of it can be a bad thing. Follow this plan to cut back on salt and improve your health in one month.
1. Get rid of three of your biggest salt craving foods a week for one month.
Most of the salt (around 80%) in our diets comes from processed and packaged foods like snack foods and chips, canned foods, frozen entrees, condiments, salad dressings and prepared meals. Make a commitment to get rid of three of your salty go-tos and keep track of how it is going for you each day. After one week of this, drop another three of your favorite salty foods. By the end of the month you will have dropped 12 to 15 big salt contributors to your diet.
But this doesn’t mean you have to completely sacrifice salt. Take some of those foods you love, like salsa or a certain salad dressing and experiment with making it yourself. Salsa at home can be made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lemon, and spices, and the homemade version is relatively salt-free. In addition to this, each week try dropping a fast food or convenience food, like your usual 3 p.m. vending-machine buy or drive-through stop. Fast-food grabs are some of the worst salt offenders in our diets, so it’s important to drop one of those a week as well.
2. Pay attention to other minerals in your diet.
Sometimes people go in for the salt because they are lacking in other essential minerals and nutrients such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. These nutrients lurk in some really good foods:
- Magnesium can be found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains and avocado. Get a full magnesium grocery list here.
- Calcium is found in dairy products, cheeses, tofu yogurts and sesame seeds.
- Zinc is found in lentils, cashews, quinoa, chickpeas, shrimp, oysters and pumpkin seeds. Get a full zinc grocery list here.
The key is not to use the salted variants of these foods, such as salted nuts. Remember to also stay hydrated. Salt levels are impacted by hydration, and when we are thirsty we can crave salt. Avoid diet sodas and sport drinks that can be full of sodium, and stick with water to quench your thirst.
3. Shake the shaker.
Even though most of the salt in our diet comes from processed and other prepared foods, we still add salt to food, and that adds up. In fact just a half teaspoon of salt contains about 1200 mg of sodium, which is anywhere from half or more of our daily allowance. Keep your saltshaker off the table, have a waiter remove it when you are in a restaurant, and consider emptying your shaker altogether. To help you stay accountable, put a quarter to a half-teaspoon of salt in your shaker in it in the morning. Once you use that, you are done with the salt you can add to your food each day. To skip adding salt to food completely, take an interesting spice, like paprika, and put that in your shaker instead. It will give you a zing without the sodium.
Some other great condiments to give you that zing flavor that you can keep in your shaker or at the table: lemon, vinegar, flavored vinegar, garlic powder (not garlic salt), and chili or spicy spices if you like heat. Just make sure that any spices you use do not contain added salt or sodium.
This plan was originally created for Dr. Oz's Truth Tube. See how Mary did with her salt addiction when she followed these steps.