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in this issue ASA BUTTERFIELD BY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK

Health: The mayo diet vs the salt diet

The “Mayo Diet” has become immensely popular in Indonesia. Interestingly, this strict-but-proven habit makeover has evolved into the even more popular “Salt Diet.” Jocelyn Halim explores more

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The “Mayo Diet” came from the famed Mayo Clinic and comprises lifelong changes in dietary habits for healthy living. The goal is to replace five poor daily habits and add five good, along with conscious portion control. The five healthy and poor health habits originally cited by the Mayo Clinic are as follows:

FIVE HEALTHY HABITS TO ADD:

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast
  2. Eat four servings of vegetables and three of fruits
  3. Eat whole grains
  4. Eat healthy fats
  5. Exercise thirty minutes

FIVE POOR HABITS TO STOP:

  1. Watching television while eating
  2. Added sugar
  3. Snacking (except on fruits and vegetables)
  4. Large servings of meat or dairy
  5. Eating at restaurants

Interestingly, in Indonesia, these sets of rules have been slightly modified with no clear explanation as to why. In particular, “eat whole grains” is usually omitted in favor of emphasizing a salt-free diet, which is not part of the original list. Actually, there are many versions of the Mayo Diet circulating in Indonesia, with all of them advocating a salt-free and no-added-sugar diet, along with conscious portion control and refraining from any snacks other than fruits and vegetables over a two-week period.

Salt has earned a bad reputation due to the many adverse health effects associated with the substance, such as high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. However, this is only because the modern diet comprises of too much salt via processed or packaged foods as well as the ubiquity of bottled sauces and extra salt at the table. In reality, salt aka sodium chloride is necessary to maintain various bodily functions. Salt plays a major role in maintaining your body’s fluid balance, blood pressure, muscle relaxation and the way your nerves transmit signals. Hence, going for a salt-free diet can be detrimental to your health, unless you consume foods that naturally contain sodium and/or chloride, such as milk, beets, celery, seaweed, tomatoes and olives.

However, the real issue that we are facing here is that there are so many hidden sources of salt in our modern world, therefore making a completely salt-free diet virtually impossible. Salt is everywhere: It adds flavor to food and is also added during food processing to act as a preservative, binder and stabilizer. Even fresh food suppliers might add salt to their products as a natural preserving agent in lieu of chemicals, as salt can draw water out of foodstuffs and thus prevent bacteria from growing. For example, unless you can purchase freshly killed chickens directly from the farm or organic-certified chickens, it is more than likely that any raw chicken that you buy will have been treated with salt. Even bread and cereals can count as significant source of salt—probably to the surprise of many.

Now we come to the real question I know everyone has been dying to ask: Is the Indonesian Mayo Diet actually healthy and beneficial despite being modified? The answer is: yes.

 

“The real issue that we are facing here is that there are so many hidden sources of salt”

 

The typical modern diet contains way too much salt-way above what our bodies require to meet its sodium and chloride requirements. The most effective way to reduce your dietary salt intake is to omit processed foods, and to season fresh food with natural herbs, spices and citrus instead of table salt or bottled sauces. This strict two-week diet regime is sufficiently shortspanned and effective enough to show even the most diehard skeptics that commitment and dedication can really pay off. As an added bonus, it can also help retrain your taste buds to reduce cravings for sweet and salty food.

Please note that this diet is not recommended for everyone. In general, this diet is not recommended for those suffering from low blood pressure, persistent bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, kidney problems and also people who need to regularly take diuretics, in order to prevent sodium-chloride deficiencies.

Jocelyn Halim received her Master’s degree from University of Sydney with High Distinction and worked in Sydney as a research and clinical diabetes, weight management and disease prevention dietitian. She currently is the director and nutrition advisor of SlimGourmet, a premium diet catering company. Details regarding SlimGourmet can be found at www.slimgourmet.net

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