by Michael Williams, RD 

I had a friend who would cover his food with salt. Every meal, each food required 8-10 shakes of the shaker. I constantly warned him of the danger he was feeding himself. It fell on to deaf ears.

One day on a dare, I convinced him to quit the shaker for a week. He was miserable and after seven days, he ran for it. I kept to my word and told him to go ahead, but to use the same amount as before, 8-10 shakes per food item. He did this and couldn’t finish the meal; it was “way too salty.” Now here is the plot twist — that friend was me.

Things are different now and based on comments from friends and family, I eat a bland and tasteless diet. But I don’t agree. Many studies show that our preference for salt is dependent on the amount we use. We develop a tolerance very quickly. Basically, the more salt we use, the more we will want, but the less we use, the less we will want. For this reason, taking a sodium detox may be one of the best and easiest things we do.

Not only is it easy, but it may also save your life! Too much sodium in the body can lead to excess fluid, which can overwork the heart. Furthermore, this sodium can lead to problems in the lining of our blood vessels. Chronic, high sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and even stomach cancer.

The first step to the Low Sodium Detox is to identify where your sodium is coming from. Table salt may be the first thought, but we need to look further. About 75 percent of sodium comes from processed foods.

This takes us to the next step — finding low sodium foods. Whole, unprocessed foods are naturally low in sodium — boxed, bagged or frozen foods are not. Look on the Nutrition Facts label and note the serving size and sodium. Now look for lower sodium versions of these foods. For instance, many canned products offer “Low Sodium” and “No Salt Added” versions. Remember, eating two servings will double the amount of sodium. A good rule of thumb is no more than 600 mg of sodium for a meal and 300 mg for a snack.

After developing an arsenal of low sodium foods, you are ready to begin. For the next seven days, the goal is to decrease your sodium to approximately 1,500 mg per day. It is best to plan this at a convenient time and mark each day’s sodium on a calendar. Now it’s going to be a tough, tasteless week but the goal is to disassociate the mind and body connection with sodium.

Use healthy, sweet foods like frozen grapes or strawberries to help ease any cravings. Experiment with different seasonings to flavor food. Try squeezed lemon or even grab some Mrs. Dash. If done correctly, by the end of the week your body will have a significantly diminished craving for high salt foods.

At this point, the majority of people may be able to slowly add a little sodium back into their diets. But remember, the more you use, the more you will want. By keeping it low, you will not feel the heavy cravings and your heart will be much happier.