I have been reading the excellent “How Not To Die” By Michael Gregar. I highly recommend it. In short, he lists the most common causes of death, and shows how your risk for all of them can be dramatically reduced by a wholefood plant based diet.
I was on the chapter called “How not to die from high blood pressure”, and I came to the section on Sodium. I was already uncomfortable, because I have the habit to add lots of salt to food. And I had good reason to be uncomfortable..
We are not born with saltshakers, and our bodies are set up to thrive on the small amounts of sodium in wholefoods. That was wake up call number one. There is enough sodium in natural food. We don’t need to add any at all. And proof of this can be found in native tribes who are strangers to added salt, and who enjoy steady low blood pressure for their entire lives.
But what I read next was worse… Salt has been shown to decrease blood flow in the tiny but vital blood vessels that permeate our bodies. And it renders useless an antioxidant enzyme that can detoxify a million harmful “free radicals” per second. And it only takes one salty meal to show measurable stiffening of arteries.
Not good, not good at all. But, living without ANY added salt? Well, unfortunately for me I read this on Pancake Tuesday, so the logical conclusion was to apply the traditional Lenten fast to the problem: No added salt for lent. That means none, no food that has added salt.
You can imagine what is excluded. That’s right, just about everything. When you look, added salt is everywhere. i had some oat milk and almond milk in the fridge. Guess what is added to those?
So, time for an interim report, what happened?
As I write, it is 3rd March. Lent is 14 Feb to 29 March this year. So I’m about 17 days in, about 26 days left.
First of all, savoury food became, admittedly a “meh” experience. None of the intense salty flavours I’m used to. Instead there is the subtle flavours of veges. Subtle/meh. Don’t expect to see a chain of zero salt restaurants. However, as the time has progressed, I am enjoying the subtle natural flavours of food again. Its a bit like giving up sweets and eating fresh berries instead. At first they tastle like water in comparison, but then taste recovers, and there is nothing like natural food.
Secondly, excuse the graphic details, but I was spitting salt for a week. I was eating NO salt, but I had a salty taste in my mouth for at least a week. That is extraordinary. My body was still getting rid of excess salt for more than a week after I stopped eating added salt.
Health improvements: Nothing dramatic, but noticeable improvements in: Digestion, less water needed, less peeing (a lot of water is needed to dilute salt), less puffiness around my face and neck, generally feeling better. And that is well worth it.
And finally: Perhaps an answer to why we crave salt…. I discovered by accident the saltiness of spinach. When I eat salt, spinach tastes like water, but when Im not eating salt, spinach and other greens have a subtle salt taste. We have all heard how greens are the best source of a wide variety of mineral salts, not just sodium salt. So perhaps that is the reason why our tongue tastes primarily sweet and salt… so that we will seek out sweet food in nature for energy, and salty food in nature for mineral salts. In other words, our ancestors would relish spinach, rocket, beetroot leaves, and other greens, thus ensuring they got moderate but sufficient minerals of all kinds. By adding salt we are getting too much sodium, and are more prone to ignore the healthy greens packed with the natural minerals we so badly need.
I will report again on this experiment.
By the way, our Yoga and Food for Natural Health Holiday in Hungary this year will feature all natural wholefood. We will have lots of natural mineral rich food. We will also show you how to prepare delicious low salt and no salt meals. You can find out more about it at https://realhealthylifestyle.com/health-holiday/