Best Low Sodium Diet
How Much Salt Is Enough?
My last two posts have featured South America’s primitive Yanomami people, who’ve thrived on a naturally low sodium diet from time unknown. In a cross-sectional study led by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers estimated their daily sodium intake at less than 100 mg/day.
But how can that be possible?
Sodium, after all, is an essential electrolyte. Without enough, our nerves, muscles, and arteries wouldn’t function properly. But we only need a small amount.
In Becoming Vegan, dieticians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina write, “The minimum biological requirement for survival is between 180 and 500 mg per day.”
Yet, far from dying off, the Yanomamo have flourished in the jungles of Brazil and Venezuela for generations. They’re living without salt shakers and without many of the most common Western diseases.
In 2019, John Hopkins Magazine editor Greg Rienzi wrote of the Bloomberg study:
“The researchers found that the Yanomami showed no discernible trend toward higher, or lower, blood pressure as the participants aged. In fact, their BPs remained remarkably consistent, and healthily low, throughout their life.”
Comparing the low salt Yanomami to the rest of the world, he continued somewhat ominously:
“In the United States and most other countries, blood pressure rises with age, beginning in childhood. High blood pressure is the leading indicator of premature death and, if untreated, can eventually cause heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke.”
Not getting enough salt is among the least of Americans’ problems. Only about 1 percent is consuming anything close to the AHA’s recommended 1,500 mg/day for a low sodium diet.
And this is after a 10-year AHA campaign encouraging reduced salt intake! From the campaign’s fact sheet:
“The American Heart Association (AHA) advocates for a stepwise reduction in sodium consumption in the U.S. diet to 1500 mg/day by 2020.”
It further acknowledges that “There is little scientific evidence for any adverse effects of low salt intake in healthy people.”
In Plant-Based Nutrition, dietician Julieanna Hever andr co-author Nasa Scientist and Health Researcher Raymon J. Cronise put it this way:
“If you eat enough food to stay alive, you’ll automatically consume adequate sodium for health.”
The bottom line in regards to low salt intake? If you’re enjoying a typical healthy, active lifestyle, you don’t need to worry about getting enough sodium.
Starting the Best Low Sodium Diet
Dr. Michael Greger says the Yanomamo people have the “Lowest salt intake ever reported…, “The Yanomamos probably represent the ultimate human example of the importance of salt on blood pressure…”
He continues, “a low enough reduction of salt in the diet would result in the prevention of essential hypertension–the rising of blood pressure as we age–and its disappearance as a major public health problem.”
Dr. Greger isn’t recommending the Yanomami’s exceptionally low sodium diet be universally adopted. But he insists sodium intake nearer the AHA’s recommended 1,500 mg per day would bring public health benefits equalling those from quitting smoking or losing weight.
And there’s no better way to start a lower-sodium diet than by committing to a whole-food plant-based (WFPB) diet! As Dr. Greger says:
“We’re talking a sharp increase in vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, and lower intake of meats and refined grain products… reducing the amount of sodium would necessitate a ‘precipitous drop’ in meat consumption for… all ages.”
A Low Sodium Diet and SOS-Free Foods
Among my favorite authors are Douglas J Lisle, Ph.D., and Alan Goldhamer, D.C., who wrote The Pleasure Trap. Their book detail strategies for optimizing your health.
One of their strongest recommendations (beyond eating plant-based)?
Choose SOS (sugar-, oil- and salt-free) foods. This blog has discussed concerns about all three:
- Oil is 100-percent fat.
- Sugar has been stripped of every other natural ingredient that would make it good for our bodies.
Neither is a whole food. Rather, they’re the most processed foods in history!
And the only difference between these two additives and salt is that salt isn’t extracted from plant ingredients. We get it from seawater or rock salt, known scientifically as sodium chloride mineral halite.
With an American average of 3,400 mg a day, we’re overwhelming our bodies with these little crystals. So if your salt habit needs kicking, the quickest way to banish it is with a WFPB diet of SOS-free foods!