As an active person, you’re always trying to eliminate sodium from your diet – you certainly don’t want the side effects of high blood pressure, heart disease or potential weight gain that come with ingesting excess salt.
To stay lean and healthy, your salt intake should be no more than one teaspoon per day (2,300 mg) – that’s the upper limit advocated by various agencies, including the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.
Sticking to this amount isn’t too difficult if you’re only eating fresh whole foods, but it’s not easy to abolish processed, packaged fare from your diet. Even clean eaters can be lured in by hidden sources of salt, which account for 77% of the sodium in the average American’s diet.
Why Salt Is Addictive
Your body does need some sodium–to maintain the right balance of fluids, transmit nerve impulses, and contract and relax your muscles–but only about 500 mg per day. When you eat far more than that, your brain chemistry is altered.
Research shows that consuming salt triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s pleasure center, making salty foods as addictive as nicotine and alcohol. Therefore, as with any addiction, eating salty foods makes you crave more. Since so many of them–like french fries and fast-food sandwiches–are also high in fat and calories, OD’ing on salt packs on the pounds.
Loading up on salt also increases thirst. This wouldn’t be an issue if we usually turned to water–but we don’t. Research has found a close link between the consumption of salt and intake of sugary beverages. (Diet sodas aren’t the answer: They’re full of sodium!)
Eating too much salt may cause weight gain in less noticeable ways too–by changing how your body makes and metabolizes fat. Studies show that a high-salt diet boosts the production of insulin, the hormone that tells the body to store excess sugar as fat. Simply put, the more insulin you have, the more fat you store and the more weight you gain.
Kicking Your Salt Habit
You can cut back on sodium with a 2-week salt cleanse, which will boost your metabolism and increase your energy as you cut excess sodium from your diet. You’ll also feel thinner, because you’ll drop water weight from bloating. Losing those pounds and inches will help motivate you to make low-salt eating a way of life as you reset your taste buds to enjoy low-sodium foods.
Here’s how: For 14 days, you’ll eat three 300-calorie meals per day, each with less than 300 mg sodium (fitnez clean eating meal plan). You’ll also drink a 300-calorie Mineral Boost Juice daily (see my fav below, use for snack between meal when needed), which provides potassium, calcium, and magnesium to help rid your body of excess sodium. Plus, you’ll eliminate processed and packaged foods, as well as alcohol.
The good news is that your palate will adapt quickly. Most of us have about 10,000 taste buds, each one made up of 50 to 150 receptor cells that live for only 1 to 2 weeks and then are replaced by new receptors. So after eating a cleaner diet for 2 weeks, you’ll not only begin to taste and enjoy more subtle flavors, you’ll also have less of a craving for salt.
Here is my favorite Mineral Boost Juice: Banana-Spinach Smoothie
Combine 1 medium frozen banana, 1 cup fresh spinach, 1 cup plain unsweetened soy milk, 2½ teaspoons almond butter, and 1 teaspoons honey in a blender. Puree until smooth, about 1-2 minutes and serve.
Sodium: 174 mg
Potassium: 805 mg
Calcium: 359 mg
Magnesium: 72 mg
Bonus tip:If you must have salt, choose sea salt, and add it to your meal after it’s cooked. Its well-rounded flavor can help you use 1/3 less than table salt.