Eat Less Salt, Get More Taste!

Once you understand why salt must be dramatically lowered in your diet, you may still be questioning how you will do it without eating bland food every day. Part of the answer is that you won’t be entirely eliminating sodium. To do that is impossible because all foods, especially vegetables, contain sodium, and this natural sodium adds to their flavor. Up until now, you have probably never noticed this natural sodium because when we over-stimulate the taste buds with too much added salt over a long period of time, our taste receptors can’t sense lower levels of salt. Thus, natural, unsalted foods seem to have less flavor. Food then tastes flat without added salt, and you need to add even more salt to almost everything. This is part of the addiction cycle: we build up tolerance for unhealthy substances. The good news, however, is that you can re-train your taste buds to be more sensitive to salt when you decrease its presence in your diet.

Most people consume between 2000 and 8000 milligrams of salt a day. When you get rid of the salt habit, your food may taste bland for a few weeks, but, within a few months, you will find that your taste buds, which were deadened by the overuse of salt, have gradually gained their sensitivity back. You will discover tastes that you never knew existed in natural foods. Even a simple pear or a leaf of lettuce will taste better. Foods that you once enjoyed will now taste too salty.

When we eat a diet low in salt, eventually, our sensitivity to salt and other tastes gets stronger and simple foods begin to have a better flavor. As you eventually get accustomed to a diet that stimulates your salt receptive taste buds less, you can enjoy more flavors in natural foods. This isn’t just limited to salt. You will also see the phenomenon at work when eating a simple strawberry or slice of red pepper. Amazingly, your taste buds become stronger when you are off salt and sugar. Try eating some plain romaine lettuce with no dressing on it now. Then eat some after reducing your salt intake for a month. You will be amazed at how much more flavor that plain, unseasoned piece of lettuce has. The bottom line is that once you break your addiction to salt, you likely won’t miss it at all, and you will find that food actually has more flavor not less.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Steve - September 3, 2009 8:50 AM

Hi Gerry

What about salt requirements for athletes, even weekend warriors?

Any sports nutrition book will talk about massive sodium losses during marathon runs, and the risk of hyponatremia.

Thanks, Steve

Eco Mama - September 7, 2009 3:59 PM

Salt is a hard one, but this is so true! Good reminder!

Isothiocyanate - September 8, 2009 11:41 AM

Re: sodium loss via athletics; hyponatremia

In the case of heavy athletics and a high sodium diet, the body is accustomed to ridding itself of the excessively high sodium volumes, and with the increase in perspiration and presumably thirst and water consumption that the physical activity brings about, the body can end up "over-excreting" sodium to a pottentially dangerous degree, plunging the serum levels far below their ideal levels, hence why you will see recommendations to consume sodium-enriched trash like gatorade...

Since blood serum mineral levels are tightly regulated by the body (sodium being no exception), if you consume 6,000mg of sodium per day, you will eventually output 6,000mg of sodium per day (primarily via urine & perspiration) and the serum levels should remain relatively stable. Likewise, if you only consume 600mg per day, you will eventually output 600mg per day and the serum levels will remain stable. The difference here, is that with the lower (read:safer, more healthful) levels of sodium intake, the supposed "risk" of hyponatremia via heavy athletics virtually disappears since you are no longer excreting substantial sodium fast enough to cause any problems.

Bottom line: Elimate all sodium from your diet outside what is present in natural foods, drink only as much water as your thirst demands, eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and your electrolyte levels will remain more or less perfect, whether your exercise levels are low or high.

Steve - September 8, 2009 9:41 PM

Thanks to Isothiocyanate for the info. I did wonder about large salt loss being the result of large salt intake, as opposed to the exercise.

I suppose a lot of this research
suggesting large salt intake is from places such as the, um, "Gatorade Sport Science Institute".

Regards, Steve

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