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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Eki Wari on January 31, 2023

Tips To Help Reduce Your Intake Of Salty Foods

Do you crave salty foods? Giving in to those temptations every once and awhile doesn't hurt, but regular consumption can increase your risk of heart complications. These tips can help you bring down your dietary salt intake.

Refusing salt min scaled

Salty foods are everywhere. They’re in fast foods, pizza, tacos, bread, meats, soups, and many snack foods. When is the last time you’ve eaten any of these foods? It was probably pretty recently.

Eating too many salty foods has been linked to numerous health complications, especially high blood pressure. This is one of the many reasons why the DASH diet is so effective for people with hypertension. It brings down your salt intake.

So, if you can’t eat salty foods, what can you eat? In this guide, our experts explain how salt affects the body and provide tips for how to reduce your intake.

How Do Salty Foods Affect Your Health?

An image of fast food meal items such as a cheeseburger, French fries, ketchup, chicken nuggets, and an apple pie
Fried foods and fast foods, such as burgers, French fries, and chicken nuggets, tend to be high in salt.

If you eat salty food regularly, your kidneys may struggle to cope with an accumulation of sodium in the blood. To dilute the substance, water will be stored in the body, and the quantity of fluid around cells increases. In addition, the volume of blood in the bloodstream will rise.

Consequently, the heart will have to work harder, and more pressure will be exerted on the blood vessels. Over time, your blood vessels may stiffen, causing hypertension, heart failure, or triggering a stroke or heart attack.

Studies also show that a loss of calcium through urination relates to your salt intake. A shortage of the mineral in blood will see it being leached from the bones. This may lead to the onset of bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis.

Impact of salt foods on the body, according to TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shares a similar opinion on the long-term effects of consuming salty food on the body.

“The overuse of monosodium glutamate (MSG) – the sodium salt of glutamic acid – can damage the Kidneys and impair bone health. Using too much salt in food preparation will result in poor blood circulation within the meridian channels,”

Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew. 

If you crave salty foods, it’s a sign of Kidney Deficiency. The organ system is responsible for maintaining a balance between yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy).

It’s also essential to healthy growth and development as it houses jing (essence). This substance is used in the production of blood and qi. 

Rather than turning to salty foods, nourish the Kidneys with the natural sodium found in food such as celery, bone broth, seaweed, or beans. 

How To Reduce Your Intake Of Salty Foods

Dietary modifications can help you control your intake of salt-laden foods.

Prepare food at home

Making home-cooked meals limits the frequency of eating out or fast food, which tends to have unregulated amounts of sodium.

Check food labels

Choose foods that contain less than 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving.

Make sure you’re getting enough potassium

A 1:2 or 1:3 consumption of sodium and potassium, respectively, can help prevent the onset of various health conditions. The recommended daily intake is two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables.

Season food with herbs instead of salt or MSG

An image of colorful herbs and cooking spices on a wooden background
Use herbs and spices to season your food instead of salt.

In TCM, several natural ingredients may replace salt or MSG as a taste enhancer. Examples of these are:  

  • Ginger (Sheng Jiang): Possesses a fresh and zingy flavor 
  • American ginseng (Ren Shen): Has a licorice-like flavor with earthy undertones
  • Codonopsis (Dang Shen): Sweet-tasting and is a popular addition to Chinese dishes, soups, and broths  
  • Hawthorn berries (Shan Zha): Has a tart, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor 
  • Astragalus root (Huang Qi): Has a sweet and sour taste

What To Do If You Eat Too Many Salty Foods

There’s nothing wrong with indulging in salty food occasionally but be mindful of how much you’re eating (even if you’re using Himalayan salt when cooking a meal).

  • If you’re unable to include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet daily, you can drink fruit or vegetable juices without added sugar. To help manage blood pressure levels and heart health, you may wish to take an herbal blood pressure supplement.
  • It also helps to also speak to a TCM practitioner before using the above-mentioned herbal ingredients. Doing so will provide information about your personal body constitution and what’s suitable for use. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Let’s find out the ‘Xian’ suspect together!”, which first appeared on Health 123’s website.

How do you reduce your salt intake? Comment below and share your tips with other readers.

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