Shake the Salt and Save Your Heart

September 24, 2009
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

New Study Shows How.

11973219-566x849Americans consume almost twice as much salt as the maximum daily recommendation calls for. High levels of sodium chloride in salt contribute to high blood pressure—and complications like heart and kidney disease.

Now a new study from the nonprofit RAND Corporation shows that cutting salt intake to 2,300 mg a day can lead to 11 million fewer cases of high blood pressure annually. That could save as much as $18 billion in health care costs each year!

Cutting back even more on salt—say to 1,500 mg a day—would save $26 billion annually. While these savings to our health care system are “quite high, they could easily be matched or exceeded by the value of quality-of-life improvements” to individuals, add doctoral fellow Kartika Palar and Roland Sturm, PhD, at RAND.

Hypertension (the medical term for high blood pressure) can cause tissue damage for up to 20 years before any discernible symptoms appear. No wonder that high blood pressure is called a “silent killer.”

All too often people suffer one or more of the life-threatening consequences of hypertension—heart attack, stroke, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, kidney damage or failure, bleeding in the eyes (or impaired sight and blindness)—before they realize they have a problem.

Today one-third of American adults have blood pressure levels that are too high (140/90 or above). That’s about 70 million people who are at risk!

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

One early sign of excessive sodium intake is fluid retention, which stresses the circulatory system and heart while causing edema (or swelling of tissues). Some women  gain as much as 10-15 pounds in “water weight” during that certain time of the month – one week or ten days prior to the onset of menses.

Fluid retention may contribute to two other symptoms linked to excessive salt intake: headaches and migraines. Other sodium additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates and nitrites also trigger headaches.

Getting the salt out of your diet requires one basic strategy: Eat more natural foods (fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, eggs, lean poultry and meats, unsalted nuts and seeds, and whole grains). Seafood, kelp and other sea vegetables contain sodium but add much-needed iodine as well. Iodine is necessary for the thyroid gland to function correctly.

While iodine has been added to table salt for that purpose, regular salt also contains anticaking agents and other substances, like aluminum,  that are not beneficial to health. By contrast, unrefined rock salt, a pollutant-free salt extracted from ancient sea beds, contains natural iodine plus a full complement of vital trace minerals.

As much as 90 percent of the salt in the American diet comes from refined foods, making it important to read labels on packages carefully. Start with the “% Daily Value” of sodium, and never buy foods that contain more than 16 percent of the Daily Value.

Also peruse the ingredients label for sodium in all its various forms: baking powder or soda, disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sea seal, sodium alginate, sodium aluminum sulfate, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, sodium bisulfite, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, sodium caseinate, sodium erythorbate, sodium hexametaphosphate, sodium hydroxide, sodium nitrate and/or nitrite, sodium pectinate, sodium propionate, sodium pyrophosphate, sodium saccharin, and sodium sulfite.

Understand as well, the meaning of “sodium-free” and similar claims. “Sodium-free” means that a food contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving. “Very-low-sodium” means a food has less than 35 mg per serving. “Low-sodium” means a food contains 140 mg or less per serving.

You probably add 5 percent of your daily salt intake from your shaker or salt grinder. You can cut some by substituting sesame salt (or gomasio, a combination of sea salt and ground sesame seeds, popular in Asian and macrobiotic cooking). My upcoming book Fat Flush for Life features gomasio in many menu plans.

Sesame seeds are a good source of minerals (calcium, magnesium, and potassium) that counteract the effects of too much sodium in the diet. If you can’t get enough potassium in your diet from vegetables and fruits, you can also consider taking a Potassium supplement such as Potassium Plus(available from UNI KEY at 800-888-4353).

While commercial salt substitutes made with potassium chloride may sound like a good idea, I no longer advise them. The potassium they supply is unnatural, so the body doesn’t utilize it well. In large amounts, potassium salts can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and ulcers. They also distort the natural flavor of foods, adding a bitter taste.

Make your meals come alive with savory salt-free seasonings like cumin, curry, chili, and cayenne. The good news is that for most people, it’s easier  to cut down on salt than to reduce fat or sugar.

Just don’t reduce sodium too quickly. It’s part of the fluid between the cells and therefore instrumental in the health of each cell in the body.  Along with sodium’s partner, potassium, these two minerals balance the nutrient and waste exchange of each cell.

Sodium is also in our blood, our lymphatic fluid, and needed for the production of hydrochloric acid so we can digest our food. This mineral is involved in nerve and muscle functioning where it again teams with potassium to maintain our body’s fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and pH balance.

To learn more about the risks and benefits of sodium, read my book Get the Salt Out.


Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Tyra Rankin

    I’ve never tried to reduce salt because I have low blood pressure. My docs have told me to add salt. I read Fat Flush Plan – a copy that’s been on my shelves unopened for 7 years! I’ve followed the plan for 1.5 weeks – amazed at 7 pound weight loss. I saw several references in the book to energy use from the sodium/potassium pump that happens when you remove dietary salt. It seems to suggest that in addition to losing water retention, removing salt makes you lose weight by requiring energy/calories from the body.

    Could you please elaborate on that idea?

    Thank you so much for your amazing work!

    Kind regards,

    Tyra Rankin

  2. Norma Rosales

    Should sesame seeds be roasted?
    What do you think of seasoning with Bragg’s all natural liquid aminos made from vegetable protein from soybeans and purified water and is 160mg sodium?

  3. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Tyra: Always take what you read with a “grain of salt” and apply the info to your own unique body. The references in Fat Flush Plan to the regulation of the sodium/potassium pump relate to GLA, not dietary salt per say. Its the GLA that revs up BAT to burn more calories via the prostaglandin pathyways and sodium/potassium pump. That’s the solution. I recommend the UNI KEY GLA 90’s — 2, twice per day. You can increase this by doubling up for a while, if you wish. GLA is the most deficient EFA on the planet based upon Omega testing.

  4. Ann Louise Gittleman

    I would toast sesame seeds for better digestion and to “set” the oil. My fave seasonings are herbs and spices like cumin, dill, cilantro, or even a bit of onion powder.

    • Annette

      I see the wisdom in eliminating salt, but there has to be some valid substitute for flavor enhancement Please don’t suggest spices;they are no substitute And while I use them liberally, all kinds of them, a to z (I’m a fairly decent cook) they just cannot truly enhance flavor without some salt. I’ve done Phase 1 of the Fat Flush several times over the the years. I love the results, but I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart. I am on my 8th day of Phase 1 again, and now, like every time in the past, I am so food bored without salt, I’d rather eat nothing. Help!

  5. Diana Fraser

    Dear ALG,
    I would like to know as well, about Dr. Bragg’s amino acids for a healthy salt flavor. I love it! I don’t want to give it up, unless it is not healthy. Is it, do you think?

  6. Ann Louise Gittleman

    Dear Friends:
    I would love to answer each and every single one of your queries, as I have done to the best of my ability, in the past. The popularity of this Blog has grown to the extent that I can no longer provide that service but I am in the planning stages of an Internet – TV show where you can call in and get those questions answered by me in person! Please stay tuned for this exciting development. I first must complete a new manuscript and then will make some exciting announcements. In the interim, may I suggest that if you have questions about products, call UNI KEY at 1-800-888-4353. The folks there are helpful and will direct you accordingly. If you are concerned about a particular health condition, then by all means check out the Testing Kits on my site which will help you to determine underlying causes. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This