Salt of the Earth: Sodium & Plant-Based Diets

Salt of the Earth: Sodium & Plant-Based Diets
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Is a plant-based diet sufficient to reach sodium goals?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Reduction of salt consumption by just 15% could save the lives of millions. If we could cut our salt intake by a half teaspoon a day, which is achievable by avoiding salty foods, and not adding salt to our food, we might prevent 22% of stroke deaths, and 16% of fatal heart attacks—potentially more than if we were able to successfully treat people with blood pressure pills. An intervention in our kitchens that may be more powerful than interventions in our pharmacies. One little dietary tweak could help more than billions of dollars worth of drugs.

What would that mean in the U.S.? Tens of thousands of lives saved every year. This simple step “could be as beneficial” on a public health scale “as interventions aimed at smoking cessation, weight reduction,” and giving people blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications. And, that’s not even getting people down to target.

Here’s the level everyone should get under, exceeded by most Americans over the age of three. And, here’s the recommended upper limit of salt intake for African-Americans, those with hypertension, and everyone over the age of 40. Processed foods have so much salt added that even if we avoid the saltiest foods, and don’t add our own salt, that would just get us down to here—but still, that could save up to nearly 100,000 American lives every year.

So: “Given that approximately 75% of dietary salt comes from processed foods, the individual approach is [described as] impractical.” We have to get food companies to stop killing so many people. And, the good news is “several U.S. manufacturers are reducing the salt content” of their foods, “but other manufacturers are increasing the salt levels in their products. For example, the addition of salt to poultry, meats, and fish appears to be occurring on a massive scale.”

The #1 source of sodium for kids and teens is pizza. For adults over 51, it’s bread. But, between the ages of 20 and 50, the greatest contribution of sodium to the diet is not canned soups, pretzels, or potato chips, but chicken—because of all the salt, and other additives, that are injected into the meat.

This is one of the reasons, in general, “animal foods contain higher amounts of sodium than plant foods.” Given the sources of sodium, complying with the recommendations for salt reduction “will require large deviations from current eating behaviors.” We’re talking a sharp increase in vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, and lower intake of meats and refined grain products. As might be expected, reducing the amount of sodium would necessitate a “precipitous drop” in meat consumption for men and women of all ages. You can see why there’s so much industry pressure to confuse people about sodium.

How do vegetarians do? Non-vegetarians get nearly 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day on average, the equivalent of about a teaspoon and a half of table salt. Now, the U.S. Dietary guidelines recommend getting under 2,300 a day, and the American Heart Association says, no way, get under just 1,500 a day. Vegetarians did better, but still double the American Heart Association limit.

In Europe, it looks like vegetarians do better, slipping under the 2,300 cut-off, but it appears the only dietary group that nails the American Heart Association recommendation are those eating the most plant-based of diets.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Birte via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Reduction of salt consumption by just 15% could save the lives of millions. If we could cut our salt intake by a half teaspoon a day, which is achievable by avoiding salty foods, and not adding salt to our food, we might prevent 22% of stroke deaths, and 16% of fatal heart attacks—potentially more than if we were able to successfully treat people with blood pressure pills. An intervention in our kitchens that may be more powerful than interventions in our pharmacies. One little dietary tweak could help more than billions of dollars worth of drugs.

What would that mean in the U.S.? Tens of thousands of lives saved every year. This simple step “could be as beneficial” on a public health scale “as interventions aimed at smoking cessation, weight reduction,” and giving people blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications. And, that’s not even getting people down to target.

Here’s the level everyone should get under, exceeded by most Americans over the age of three. And, here’s the recommended upper limit of salt intake for African-Americans, those with hypertension, and everyone over the age of 40. Processed foods have so much salt added that even if we avoid the saltiest foods, and don’t add our own salt, that would just get us down to here—but still, that could save up to nearly 100,000 American lives every year.

So: “Given that approximately 75% of dietary salt comes from processed foods, the individual approach is [described as] impractical.” We have to get food companies to stop killing so many people. And, the good news is “several U.S. manufacturers are reducing the salt content” of their foods, “but other manufacturers are increasing the salt levels in their products. For example, the addition of salt to poultry, meats, and fish appears to be occurring on a massive scale.”

The #1 source of sodium for kids and teens is pizza. For adults over 51, it’s bread. But, between the ages of 20 and 50, the greatest contribution of sodium to the diet is not canned soups, pretzels, or potato chips, but chicken—because of all the salt, and other additives, that are injected into the meat.

This is one of the reasons, in general, “animal foods contain higher amounts of sodium than plant foods.” Given the sources of sodium, complying with the recommendations for salt reduction “will require large deviations from current eating behaviors.” We’re talking a sharp increase in vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, and lower intake of meats and refined grain products. As might be expected, reducing the amount of sodium would necessitate a “precipitous drop” in meat consumption for men and women of all ages. You can see why there’s so much industry pressure to confuse people about sodium.

How do vegetarians do? Non-vegetarians get nearly 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day on average, the equivalent of about a teaspoon and a half of table salt. Now, the U.S. Dietary guidelines recommend getting under 2,300 a day, and the American Heart Association says, no way, get under just 1,500 a day. Vegetarians did better, but still double the American Heart Association limit.

In Europe, it looks like vegetarians do better, slipping under the 2,300 cut-off, but it appears the only dietary group that nails the American Heart Association recommendation are those eating the most plant-based of diets.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Birte via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

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