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The Dr. Gourmet Diet Plan
Why should I eat less salt?



closeup of a person's hand; they are sprinkling salt into a saucepan

We eat too much salt. It might be hard to believe, but the average person eats over 6,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium every day. That works out to about 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, which is about 2 1/2 times the recommended amount of 2,400 mg per day.

If you are used to eating a lot of salt, we do have great evidence that your tastebuds can learn to do without all that sodium. A great study placed a group of people on a sodium restricted diet for five months (Am J Clin Nutr 1982;36:1134-44). Their subjective response to the saltiness of salt in solutions, soups and crackers were measured before and while they were following the diet. The same measurements were made in a control group that didn't change their diet. In the group that lowered their salt intake, the perceived intensity of salt in crackers increased over the five month period. The amount of salt needed for "maximum pleasantness" of taste fell in the study group but not in the control group.

This is a profound problem for us. Research estimates that reducing salt intake could save 150,000 lives each year. That's a lot of our friends, family and co-workers.

Take your time making the change to lowering salt in your diet. Here's how:

Step One
Keep in mind that the 2,400 mg per day recommendation works out to just about 1 teaspoon salt, total. Measure your salt when you do cook. It's easy and a simple step to being healthier.

Step Two
Frozen or packaged meals, fast food and eating on the run has become too much a part of our lives. The key is to begin slowly by making fresh meals at least a couple of times a week. Each week plan more fresh meals (leftovers work great here also).

Step Three
Stop eating processed foods. Don't make your Macaroni and Cheese out of a box - cook it fresh. Cooking food from scratch takes a bit more time, but it tastes so much better and is so much better for you. Most importantly, you have direct control of the amount of sodium in your food.

Step Four
When you do eat processed foods, pay attention to the salt. The sodium content is the one item on the Nutrition Facts label that isn't confusing. Your goal should be less than about 2,400 mg per day.

This is one of the simplest ways to make a major change in your health. Take your time and make changes gradually. Your taste buds will adjust to eating less salty foods and you'll be so much healthier for it.