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THE DIET WITHIN THE DIET: Excess of Salt or Salty Food

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Dietary subtleties to be considered from the perspective of Chinese Medicine and Western Science


"If you're not your own doctor, you're a fool." ~ Hippocrates

The series of articles called “Diet Within the Diet” refer to the micro-adjustments that we can make within any type of diet . Despite calling these settings “micro", they can really make a huge difference in health and diet success. How many times do we hear people saying that they are vegan, or vegetarian, or even that they have a “balanced” diet? What always comes to my mind is: How many possibilities of vegan, vegetarian and “balanced” diets are there? Sure as many as there are people in the world. The perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is extremely interesting, because it provides very interesting comments on eating habits beyond the food itself. Even though I fully adhere to a vegetarian diet, the following concepts can be applied to any type of diet. It should be noted that the diet proposed by the TCM is not strictly free of animal products, although it (traditionally) encourages a really small consumption of such foods and all other foods appear in their whole form, being processed foods totally inexistent.


Excess of Salt or Salty Food:

It is well known that a salt excess causes high blood pressure, ulcers, stomach cancer, edema, kidney damage, low nutrient absorption and calcium deficiency resulting in a weakening of bones, nerves, muscles and the heart.

From an energetic point of view, the Traditional Chinese Medicine considers salt and Salty* foods (seaweed, fish, miso, soy sauce) as beneficial for stimulating the kidneys, better regulation of body fluids and moisturizing in dryness. Salt neutralizes toxins, improves digestion and bowel movement and helps eliminate blockages by softening muscles, glands and lymph nodes.

All these attributes belong to the salt in its whole form specifically, which has all the minerals that belong to its chemical composition. The main drawback is the use of refined salt that is nothing more than sodium, iodine, sugar (dextrose) and preservatives. Salt in its integral form is a very powerful food not only nutritionally but energetically.

Paul Pitchford, a great reference in nutrition and diet therapy, also argues that the excess of refined salt in our society is an attempt to capture all its lost nutrients, and that such addiction can be eliminated in a few weeks using, in his opinion, authentic Sea Salt. It is interesting to note that from the Macrobiotic point of view, salt has to be cooked and transformed in order to be absorbed correctly for us. That is why, keeping in mind this traditional knowledge, a pinch of sea salt is used to cooked grains and legumes to make them more digestible. Salt shaker is never on the table. Instead, they use tamari, shoyu (soy sauce), gomasio, miso and umeboshi to make dishes salty and healthier… (Check gomasio’s recipe below which is specially delicious over grains. According to the Macrobiotic principles, this amazing seasoning strengthens digestion, improves energy immediately and has potent healing properties).


On the other hand, if we observe that a diet based on starches, vegetables and fruits, without added sodium provides less than 500 mg of sodium per day; adding half a teaspoon of salt to your dishes daily would add approximately 1100 mg of sodium, which makes the total daily intake is 1600 mg. The "low sodium diet" given to a hospitalized patient, after a serious heart attack, contains 2000 mg of sodium. That is why salt in small quantities is a safe source of minerals, which also improves the taste of the dishes increasing the chances of success of the diet. We can also occasionally replace salt, with other salty foods such as seaweed.


Gomasio (sesame-salt) - High in calcium, iron and Vitamins A and B.


1 Cup of sesame seeds 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt or any whole form of salt


Wash, soak seeds with salt 6-8 hours and drain.

Dry-toast seeds in skillet over medium heat until they are golden brown and before they start to pop. Let cool them down.

Grind sesame seeds with mortar and pestle or suribachi using even, gentle pressure until each seed is half crushed.

You can store it in a closed glass jar, although I recommend to make it fresh every day.

* There’s a convention about capitalizing Chinese Medicine terms to be able to differentiate them from regular everyday terms. For example, Cold can be more extensive in its Chinese meaning that the regular word ‘cold’… The same is true when talking about the Chinese concepts of Stomach and the Western, anatomical stomach.


SOURCES:


Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 3rd ed., rev., updated, and expanded. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Kushi, Michio. The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness & Peace. Square One Publishers, 2013.

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