If you’re looking to improve your health, lose weight, and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke as part of a healthy diet, it’s important to make sure that the foods you eat are high in nutrients but low in salt. This helps keep your blood pressure under control. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet could be the answer.
The DASH diet is a great option for anyone looking to make this switch. Here are 5 tips that can help you get started.
Salt intake is often a contentious issue. I am a firm believer that a small amount (6 grams as a daily maximum) of salt is not going to have a huge impact on one’s health, so long as you’re choosing nutritional-rich foods.
Salt is found in many foods, particularly when it comes to cured meats and processed foods. This includes many canned and frozen vegetables and beans, as well as many heavily processed grains and breads. It is also commonly present in many grocery store-prepared meals.
I personally use to eat “salt-free” foods, and I think for most people, it is prudent to eat slightly less sodium than sodium chloride (salt) of 1,250 mg per day. However, there is quite a bit of variability in the amount of salt you should consume.
The DASH Diet
A 2000 study performed by Prof. Klaus Lackner and Dr. Rolf Siess of the University of Cologne found that sodium intake confers protection against cardiovascular diseases, while larger, prospective studies have provided conflicting results.
Other studies performed in animals and humans have identified whether behaviour, genes, and even the gut microbiome influence the protective effects of sodium on heart health.
Regardless, the bottom line is that a low-salt diet will result in a number of cardiovascular side effects. While it can be difficult to gauge exactly how much salt to consume, the average adult requires about 1,200 mg of sodium per day. Zero to very low intake can result in mild cramping, skin rashes, and blood pressure increases.
Overindulging in foods high in sodium, can result in serious symptoms like high fever, confusion, and hallucinations. There have even been some cases of strokes among those who ate more salt than they should have.
For most, a reduced-salt diet is a good idea. It is important to stay active for the health benefits it will afford, while also making sure you maintain a healthy weight. In the meantime, it is prudent to try to avoid foods high in salt.
Try to make sure a salad includes a decent amount of vegetables and grains, as well as, nuts and seeds. You may want to opt for sports drinks that are low in sodium, but you can still enjoy a healthy and refreshing glass of water.
Personally, I often make a salad with a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice and simple vinegar on top. I then sprinkle on a few slices of salami, some iodine tablets, a spoonful or two of nutritional yeast, as well as sliced avocado.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
- USE MEALTIME TO INCREASE NUTRIENTS
Part of what makes the DASH eating pattern so healthy is the emphasis on salt. While the amount received in each food should be debated, we opt for 1/2 teaspoon of salt per day, which is by no means abstaining from other important nutrients and allows us to maintain a healthy weight.
- IMPROVE HEALTHY FATS FURTHER
Another big difference between the DASH and the SAD eating pattern is the emphasis on healthy fats. The DASH diet recommends adding no more than 6 ounces of nuts per day to a sandwich or wrap. This helps cut back on trans fats which can significantly decrease your risk of heart disease.
- BE SMART WITH SPICES AND CINNAMON SEEDS
The DASH eating pattern discourages the use of high-sodium condiments. This is due to the higher than average intake of sodium, and many morning foods, like coffee and cereal, are high in the nutrient.
- PREP A MEATLESS BREAKFAST
The DASH eating pattern has the green light for breakfast, providing an extra slice or two of fruit or oatmeal with each meal. On the other hand, SAD includes small portions of higher-sodium foods at breakfast and lunch, and the evening meal can cater to the greatest cravings with large portions of highly processed high-fat foods like fried foods, solid fats, sauces and dressings, and desserts.
- PARTICIPATE IN EXERCISE
Regular physical activity helps you stay in shape and contribute to better nutrition habits. Eliminating unhealthy habits only to exercise less is a recipe for failure. The DASH diet focuses on getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity like walking or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.
Heart Healthy Diet
Salt is linked to a host of problems, from uncomfortable bloating to anaemia. If you need to add more salt, however, you may be reducing your overall intake of other micronutrients that you need. Read more to learn how adding a small amount of salt to your food can enhance your nutritional intake.
The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests decreasing your intake of sodium by half a teaspoon or using “sodium-free” seasonings.
Some people talk a lot about eating more nutritious foods, but nutritious does not mean low in salt. Salt is essential for many different dishes and our bodies need a little bit of it. You can still enjoy a protein-rich snack or enjoy a low-salt dish whenever you want. Just make sure that salt is used sparingly.
Avoid processing foods before using them instead of throwing them out. It’s not just the salt that contains essential nutrients, it’s the bacteria that are also in the food.
If possible, try to avoid eating raw food.
You can also look to high-salt foods as an occasional treat if you need to stretch a bit. Many seasoned soups contain a large amount of salt that you can use as a dip.
Salt is also largely responsible for the highly popular and inexpensive seasonings we use on our food. You can simplify your cooking by using less salt in your dishes.
Spice up your Life
One can make simple mixtures like maple syrup with 2 teaspoons of salt or anise with 1 teaspoon. You can use fine sea salt in small amounts, or use table salt that has been de-salted.
By the way, the combination of salt and sugar is often called “salt and sugar’s heaven” for a reason. While it’s highly concentrated, the solution still contains a lot of other healthy micronutrients.
Knowing the different types of salt will help you choose a flavour that you like. These components help balance bitter components and help balance acids.
Try to find salt that is minimally processed, such as those that have less added sugar and have a lower smoke point, and check the package label to make sure it contains less sodium.
Sodium intake is higher in countries that are more processed. It’s suggested that people in these countries include more unrefined healthier ingredients in their diets.
Although sodium is less of a concern in refined diet foods, it is still prudent to keep an eye on how much sodium you consume throughout the day. Many processed foods still contain added salt.
It’s also important to include fruits and vegetables in your diet.