“The margaritas might be the problem,” I told him. “Not because of the calories. Because of the salt.”
In fact, a new study has linked obesity and sodium intake so closely that cutting down on salt might be the absolute best way to shed belly fat, fast. For every extra gram of salt you eat in a day–that’s a mere ⅕ of a teaspoon, or about what you’ll find in one of those tiny salt packets from the soup shop–your risk of obesity climbs by 25 percent, according to a study at Queen Mary University in London. Researchers speculate that sodium alters our metabolism, changing the way in which we absorb fat.
And that’s really bad news. From our packaged snacks to the food we order in restaurants, the modern American diet is saltier than Amy Schumer’s pillow talk. American men eat 4,243 mg of sodium a day, about double what experts recommend, while women average about 3,000 mg daily. And most of the salt we eat comes not from our own salt shaker, but from restaurants and packaged foods. The best way to seize control: Cook more at home, which will automatically cut your salt intake in half. That’s a lot of weight loss, just for eating a lot of delicious food. Here are some of the easiest ways to trim your belly, adapted from the new Zero Belly Cookbook. And see how adding low-sodium foods into your diet is one of the 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #1
Diss Salt, Push Pepa
Most of us use a few more shakes of salt than we do pepper whenever we flavor our meals. If you reverse that ratio, you’ll also reverse your weight gain. In animal studies, piperine—the compound that’s released when you grind pepper—has been shown to fight obesity-causing inflammation, and reduce both depression and arthritis. In humans, it’s also proven to improve your ability to get a nice tan while spending less time in the sun. Other studies show that piperine helps improve blood levels of nutrients like EGCG, the metabolism-revving compound found in green tea.
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #2
Train Your Tongue with Herbs
A recent behavioral study showed adults how to jazz up meals using herbs instead of salt. As a result, the subjects cut nearly a full gram of sodium a day from their intake. That’s enough to cut your risk of obesity by 25 percent! The top choices: fresh parsley and chives. Each ranks higher in nutritional density than that so-called superfood kale, according to a recent study at William Paterson University. Or try cooking with tea. Yes, tea! That worked for Tracy Durst, age 45, of Lewistown, PA, when she bought our Tea Diet book. “I went from a size 20 to a size 16, and I’m alive with energy,” she told Eat This, Not That! For the complete plan, click on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse!
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #3
Observe the 140 Rule
In order to be labeled low-sodium, the FDA requires soups to contain no more than 140 mg of sodium per serving. That’s a great guideline for any processed food: If the sodium tops that number, look for another product. For example, you could cut 665 mg out of a crudite spread by choosing Bolthouse Farms Blue Cheese Dressing (135 mg) over Kraft Roka Blue Cheese (290mg), Newman’s Own Mild Salsa (65 mg) over Herdez Salsa (240 mg), and Lay’s Oven Baked Original Chips (135 mg) over Rold Gold Pretzel Thins (470 mg).
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #4
Beware the world’s saltiest meal
It might be P.F. Chang’s Hot & Sour Soup Bowl, which packs an artery-shivering 7,980 mg of sodium–more than four days’ worth. (That’s the equivalent of 44 ½ individual bags of Doritos Cool Ranch.) If you ordered the Egg Drop Soup instead, you’d save 7,390 mg! Other foods that pack more than two days’ worth of sodium: Applebee’s Shrimp Fajitas (6,110 mg), Chili’s Texas Cheese Fries (5,270 mg) and Cheesecake Factory’s Sunrise Fiesta Burrito (4,600 mg). Rather than eat any of those, stay home and whip up one of the quick 5-minute meals among the 150+ low-sodium weight-loss recipes in the Zero Belly Cookbook, based on the New York Times-bestselling Zero Belly Diet!
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #5
Beware the Stealth Salt Sandwich
You probably know that if you’re tearing open a bag of Doritos, all bets are off. But surprisingly, chips and and pretzels aren’t where we get most of our salt. According to a recent CDC study, we get more sodium every day from bread, cold cuts and cheese than we do from salty snacks. Opt for roast beef or roast turkey on whole grain rather than salami, pepperoni, or other high-salt cold cuts.
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #6
Up the Brown Spices
Tangy spices like mustard seed, turmeric and horseradish can duplicate the tongue-tantalizing effects of salt, with major belly-flattening benefits. Mustard seeds are super high in fat-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, while compounds in turmeric and horseradish have been shown to impact the behavior of your fat-storage genes. Find out which other spices made our list of the 9 Best Flat-Belly Superfoods Ever!
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #7
Eat the Fat
Many products reduce fat by adding salt and sugar. For example, plenty of natural peanut butters have no added salt, while Jif Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread has 220 mg (as well as corn syrup solids, molasses, zinc oxide, and other stuff that has nothing to do with peanuts).
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #8
Go for Yogurt
A naturally low-sodium food, yogurt makes a smart substitution for products like mayo which bring the fat, but none of the belly-flattening probiotics of yogurt. More significantly, yogurt is a great source of iodine, which is added to table salt for health benefits. Its one of the few positives of eating salt, but yogurt can help make the additional sodium a thing of the past. Turbocharge your fat burn with one of these 9 Best Brand Name Yogurts for Weight Loss!
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #9
Beware of Bizarre Ingredients
Baskin-Robbins Butterfinger Mix-in lists “salt” five times on its ingredients list. That’s bad. But it also lists sodium citrate, sodium erythorbate, sodium phosphate, sodium nitrite and sodium stearoyl lactylate–all forms of salt as well.
SALT-BUSTING SLIMDOWN #10
Veer Away from Vegetable Flavors
What’s the difference between Mission Corn Tortillas and Mission Garden Spinach Herb Wraps? The first has a mere 7 mg of sodium each; the second has 440 mg. For many products, “vegetable flavor” means little more than some vegetable powder and lots of salt. You’ll need a drink after all that sodium—just don’t make it a Coke. Click here for the 5 Astonishing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Soda!
MELT UP TO 10 POUNDS IN ONE WEEK!