Aging & Longevity

Doctor Claims Salt in Processed Foods Is Killing Us

According to Dr. Michael Greger, about 25% of lifespan is determined by genetics — making the vast majority of early deaths preventable — and avoiding sodium in processed foods is a major way to do so.

By Bennett M. Sherman

Key Points:

  • As the author of the book How Not to Die, Dr. Greger claims that the added salt in processed foods increases our chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by 40%.
  • Dr. Greger recommends potassium salts (KCl) in place of sodium salts (NaCl) and avoiding processed foods in order to reduce overall sodium intake.
  • Dr. Greger also recommends consuming nitrates contained in dark green plants like spinach and broccoli to activate detoxification enzymes in the liver.

Dr. Michael Greger is a clinical nutrition physician and speaker who has also written a slew of books like How Not to Die that reveal strategies to prevent an early death. Dr. Greger says that about 25% of our lifespan is determined by genetics based on studies of identical twins, leaving significant room to alter our lifestyles for early death prevention. As for the most crucial dietary component contributing to early deaths, Dr. Greger says it is sodium from processed foods and that eliminating this detrimental dietary ingredient can prevent certain kinds of cancer and heart disease.

In a YouTube segment, Dr. Greger says the number one killer in the US is our diet and lifestyle, bumping tobacco use to number two. According to Greger, we need to consume more lentils, like beans and peas, and cut back on processed foods. Moreover, consuming dark green plants like spinach and broccoli can trigger liver detoxifying pathways in our bodies to help prevent age-related diseases and, ultimately, an early death.

“We have tremendous power over our health destiny and longevity,” says Dr. Greger. “The vast majority of premature death and disability is preventable with a healthy enough diet and lifestyle.”

Dr. Greger Recommends Replacing Sodium Salt with Potassium Salt and Eating More Legumes and Grains

Most have heard that we are not getting enough legumes like beans, chickpeas, and lentils as well as not enough whole grains and vegetables. However, the worst thing about our diets is that we are getting too much sodium through salts and preservatives in foods. As an alternative, Dr. Greger says using potassium salts in foods can reduce cardiovascular problems. He references research saying that even using half potassium salt and sodium salt can reduce cardiovascular disease by 40% and significantly cut mortality.

Dr. Greger also goes on to say that a high kimchi diet, which contains copious amounts of salt, is partially responsible for Korea having the highest incidence of stomach cancer globally. In this way, cutting back on sodium salts may alleviate the occurrence of other age-related conditions, besides cardiovascular disease, like cancer.

Eating Dark Green Vegetables to Activate Detoxifying Enzymes

As for more of what we should eat, Dr. Greger says eating berries at every meal can improve blood flow and cognition. Dr. Greger says he is a fan of cranberries, wolfberries, and grapes that have seeds in them. Also along the lines of what we should eat, dark green vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach made his list.

According to Dr. Greger, dark green vegetables like broccoli improve the detoxification enzymes in our livers, cutting down inflammation. Moreover, eating broccoli can improve liver-related detoxification enzymes for up to a week after eating it.

Drinking Water and Tea for Proper Hydration

For beverages, according to Dr. Greger, the top drinks are water and tea. Hydrating is essential for proper physiological function, and as we age, our taste sensitivity and thirst sensitivity fall, reducing our desire to drink water and stay hydrated.

Water is the best drink anyone can consume, according to Dr. Greger. As for tea, those who drink three cups of tea per day have a 24% reduced risk of premature death. Along those lines, green tea has a slight advantage over other teas, because it contains pro-longevity molecules like EGCG.

The way to tell whether you are staying hydrated is to look at your urine. Dr. Greger says you want a nice, pale coloration to your urine that indicates proper hydration. If your urine is on the darker side, try drinking more water and/or tea.

Surrounding Yourself with Health-Conscious People to Prolong Your Life

As for your social circle, Dr. Greger says who you associate with can contribute to living a longer life. For example, the Seventh Day Adventists, a religious sect with a large presence in the blue zone of Loma Linda, California, who treat their bodies as a temple, choose wisely what to include in their diets. In part, by influencing each other to make healthy choices due to their religious credence, the Seventh Day Adventists live longer than any other population on Earth.

“If you surround yourself by really healthy people who constantly inspire you to do that little extra, to eat a little healthier, to move a little more, well then, you’re going to benefit from that,” says Dr. Greger.

Cutting Back on Sodium, Eating Dark Green Plants, Drinking Water or Tea, and Keeping Good Company

Dr. Greger recommends cutting sodium sources from our diets by reducing the amounts of processed foods we eat. As an alternative to sodium salt, he proposes that we use potassium salt. This can be found in the form of potassium chloride (KCl) in products like Nu Salt. Moreover, he suggests that we consume more legumes, grains, and dark green vegetables. For beverages, he says water and tea are the best and that drinking three cups of tea a day can significantly reduce the risk of premature death. Last, Dr. Greger says that surrounding yourself with health-conscious people who inspire you to make beneficial decisions about what to eat, how much to exercise, etc., can help optimize one’s lifespan.

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