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Before you grab that salt shaker, keep reading. There’s more reason than ever to reduce your sodium intake. In addition to the well-established link between high salt diets and heart issues, new research found that a high salt diet can have other harmful effects, including on your gut health.
Recent research published in Nature found that a high salt diet (the Standard American Diet (SAD) constitutes a high salt diet) destroys beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is linked to autoimmune diseases and high blood pressure. Conversely, the scientists believe that probiotic supplementation may reverse these health problems.
I’ll share the research and explain the many health benefits of probiotics in the gut (anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, brain-health-boosting, etc.) as well as ways to increase the number and varieties of probiotics in the diet.
Earlier research in the medical journal Nature Neuroscience found that excessive salt consumption affects healthy blood flow to the brain and causes an increased risk of cognitive impairment, dementia and cerebrovascular diseases, including stroke. In that study, scientists found that a high salt diet can impair the lining of blood vessels and their ability to transport blood throughout the body, including to the brain, reducing blood flow to the delicate organ.
While experts differ on the amount of sodium needed in the diet, the American Heart Association (AHA), estimates that the average American eats twice as much salt as they should be. The average person ingests 3400 milligrams daily while the recommended limit is 1500 mg daily. A single fast food meal in a day typically surpasses the daily limit without any other meals or snacks in a day.
Fortunately, it is easy to cut down on salt:
-Opt for homemade meals over fast food or packaged foods.
-Make your own sauces, condiments, and salad dressings since these packaged foods tend to be extremely high in salt. Use them sparingly if you must use them.
-Choose fresh or dried herbs or herbal blends instead of salt to season your food.
-Add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to homemade soups, salad dressings or other foods instead of salt.
-Make your own seasoning mixes since most packaged ones tend to be high in salt.
-Start reading nutrition labels on the packaged foods you purchase and stay away from those that are high in sodium.
It’s also easy to give your gut a microbial boost. Here are a few of my preferred ways:
-Eat probiotic-rich fermented foods like sauerkraut (from the refrigerator section of your grocery or health food store), kimchi, kefir, vegan yogurt or other foods with live cultures.
-Eat more plant-based foods since the natural fiber in these foods acts as food for beneficial bacteria and gives them a boost in your gut.
-Eat less sugar. Harmful bacteria and yeasts feed on sugar and cause the balance of good to harmful bacteria to shift in favor of the latter.
-Eat more fiber-rich foods like legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains. The fiber feeds beneficial microbes.