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IT'S NOT THE SALT. IT'S SODIUM THAT MATTERS. SALT JUST HAS A LOT OF SODIUM IN IT.
Salt is hot news today. Our health matters to each of us and how we manage nutrients has become top level news.
One man has been beating the no salt in our diet, and that man is Donald Gazzaniga. Everyone wants to cut donwn their salt intake.
But Donald Gazzaniga, author of many no salt cookbooks, (Macmillan/St.Martin's press) explains that it's not the salt that matters.
It's the sodium, salt just has a lot of sodium in it. Gazzaniga has exposed where sodium sneaks into our lives and has created a whole world of help
for anyone who wants to live a healthy yet flavorful life.
Sodium is a major component of table salt, baking powder, baking soda, soy sauce, cheeses and most processed foods.
It easily qualifies as the most difficult of all diet ingredients to keep under control. It's not so much that
you can simply quit adding salt to dishes — that is easily done — it's the fact that sodium is hidden in so
many foods that it's difficult to get an accurate count of your daily sodium intake, much less hold the amount down.
When too much sodium intake is a matter of life or death, the problem gets downright serious. This was the challenge facing Donald Gazzaniga of northern California back in January of 1997. Diagnosed with "terminal" congestive heart failure, he was headed for the waiting list for a heart transplant - his only hope for survival. He was advised by his doctor to keep his sodium intake under 1500-2000 mg. per day. Gazzaniga had other ideas, however. He suggested that he could get under that goal if the doctors thought it would help. "I told him that I always thought it would help, but that no one had ever succeeded in getting below 1500 mg a day," Dr. Michael Fowler of the Stanford University Heart Transplant Center said.
Fowler was right. Cutting salt out is no easy feat when you realize that the average American consumes up to 10,000 mg. per
day. (Estimates range from 4,000 mg to higher than 10,000 mg per day. One commercial turkey pastrami sandwich found by Gazzaniga had about 17,000 mg of sodium per serving.)
But Gazzaniga was determined to meet the challenge. An amateur chef, he would not subscribe to the theory
that salt was a necessary ingredient in cooking to enhance flavors and was practically indispensable.
In Gazzaniga's case, there was no choice. Salt must be drastically reduced in his diet – or else.
Gazzaniga's goal was to get his salt intake down to a minuscule 500 mg. per day, an almost unheard of level
and one which most experts deemed virtually impossible. And, he vowed to do it while still eating a tasty,
broad-based diet. Thus began his odyssey which resulted in The No Salt Lowest Sodium Cookbook series. The books include basic recipes
to international meals including Asian, African, European and others — literally hundreds of delicious recipes designed to combat heart failure and dangerous hypertension.
He also has a no salt bread and baking book. With the help of his eldest daughter Jeannie Gazzaniga, a registered dietitian with a doctorate degree,
he also built a 28 day meal planning guide (in 1997), a guide that never exceeds the 500 mg target level and often provides
as few as 285 mg a day. Daily nutrient requirements for all nutrients are also included.
Gazzaniga has received thousands of confirmations for his 28 day plan from visitors to his website at www.megaheart.com.
"Patients have written that after a year on the program they too have been removed from the heart transplant list.
Improvement has seemed miraculous for them. I think we've helped here with a plan that really works and seems to
me at least, a lot better than a transplant," Gazzaniga said. Gazzaniga should have added that his own heart "remodeled"
to a normal size, down from about as large as it could get without failing. His EF (ejection fraction) climbed from 18% to 50%, a
unheard of a decade ago.
Dr. Michael Fowler says, "The diet he designed for himself had a profound impact on his ability to survive and to improve so dramatically."
Gazzaniga has not had to have a heart transplant and most likely never will.
Gazzaniga says, "I can't give the diet all the credit,
but it, along with a wonderful group of doctors, well planned medication and vigorous daily exercise has played a major role
in my survival — there's no question about it." When asked whether he used his own cookbooks he responded emphatically, "Absolutely!"
Gazzaniga's free Web site also provides a selection of free recipes and his monthly newsletter adds more for subscribers. At this writing The No Salt, Lowest Sodium Cookbook, the first in his series, is in its eleventh major printing.
Gazzaniga and his wife and their Web site (megaheart.com) have been featured in national magazines*, in many newspapers and newsletters and on other Web sites. Major hospitals and clinics, doctors, nurses and dietitians recommend his book to patients in need of a low sodium lifestyle.
It is now thirteen years since he launched his own new lifestyle and he's still going strong. His fifth book is due out in 2010 sometime and he says it promises to be as helpful if not more than each of the others.
Each book has been published by Thomas Dunne Books/Macmillan/St. Martin's Press. They are available in any bookstore or online.
*Click Here to see Spring 2009 Feature on Megaheart's Chef Don — Courtesy Heart-Healthy Living Magazine.