In recent years, people have shown more interest in exploring healthier and more sustainable dietary options to prevent chronic diseases commonly caused by unhealthy eating habits.
One such option is the SOS-Free diet, which emphasizes a whole-plant-food diet that eliminates added salt, oil, and sugar.
This diet has been gaining popularity in the health and wellness community, and even in clinical settings. In this blog post, we will provide an in-depth discussion about the SOS-Free diet, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your daily life.
What is the SOS Free Diet?
The SOS-Free Diet is a whole-plant-food diet that exclusively uses foods high in fiber, unsaturated fatty phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
According to the Center for Nutrition Studies, a SOS-Free Diet should be composed of:
- 70-75% carbohydrates
- 10-12% protein, and
- 15-18% fat
While traces of naturally occurring salt, oil, and sugar are permitted in the SOS-Free Diet, the ultimate goal is to avoid foods that have these components as added ingredients. By avoiding these additives, people following the SOS-Free Diet can promote a better overall sense of well-being within themselves.
This diet eliminates processed vegan foods and recreational drugs, such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana. Supplementation with vitamin B12 is also necessary.
Who is the SOS-Free Diet Designed for?
Unlike fad diets that seek to provide a quick-fix for weight loss, the SOS-Free Diet is designed to promote a more health-conscious lifestyle and achieve long-lasting changes in a person’s dietary behaviors.
While anyone who wants to can follow a SOS-Free Diet, it can be especially beneficial for individuals looking to address specific health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Though the SOS-Free Diet may not be a cure for these conditions, it can be immensely helpful for lowering a person’s risk factors to begin with or managing the disease.
For health-conscious individuals who simply want to eliminate salt, oil, and sugar from their diets, the SOS-Free Diet provides a solid foundation for switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet.
Moreover, the SOS-Free Diet is often crucial for minimizing your consumption of over-processed foods.
Why Eat the SOS-Free Diet?
For newcomers to the SOS-Free Diet, eliminating salt, oil, and sugar might seem extreme — especially considering how often these ingredients are found in everyday food items.
So, let’s figure out if it’s worth it! Let’s look at each of these ingredients individually.
Why Go Salt-Free?
Modern-day recipes and processed foods contain high levels of sodium, driving up our daily consumption of salt in a standard diet. While low levels of salt are not necessarily harmful, the average person in the U.S. consumes far more salt than recommended on a daily basis.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, though the recommended sodium intake is 2,300 mg (or roughly one teaspoon) or less of salt per day, the average American eats around 3,400 mg of sodium per day. The FDA states that a high-sodium diet can draw water into the bloodstream, potentially leading to a rise in blood pressure. If left unaddressed, this can lead to hypertension and other health issues.
When hypertension remains uncontrolled, this can result in a more serious risk of health conditions like:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
This is particularly important for older adults to consider, as a person’s blood pressure can naturally increase as they age.
Why Go Oil-Free?
Oil is calorie-dense and often offers little nutritional value. By eliminating oil from your diet, you can reduce calorie intake, support weight loss, and improve cholesterol levels.
According to the Center for Nutrition Studies, oil is a high-fat food that can have negative health impacts including:
- Diminished endothelial function (which affects your blood circulation), leading to decreased blood flow
- Slowed digestive processes
- Over-production of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body
- Negative effects on gut bacteria levels, richness, and diversity
However, there are ways to eat healthy fats without the use of oils. Here are some great substitutes for oil in a SOS-Free Diet:
- Nuts and seeds (and nut- or seed-based butters)
- Beans and legumes (like chickpeas)
- Whole or fermented soy products
The key when buying oil alternatives is to look for items that are labeled as having no added oils, sugars, or salt. This is crucial for all grocery shopping trips when following a SOS-Free Diet as well.
Furthermore, cooking without oil actually helps you enjoy MORE flavor – or even enjoy flavors you’ve never experienced before. The truth is, oil tends to mask the flavor in food. When you leave oil behind, you can explore alternative flavoring techniques and experiment with natural ingredients.
Why Go Sugar-Free?
Refined sugar is a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, and various metabolic disorders.
Still, modern diets — especially those seen in Western societies — are high in added sugars. Some of the biggest culprits include soft drinks, alcohol, fruit drinks, cereals, processed baked goods, and candy.
According to one Harvard Health report, there is research to suggest that long-term overconsumption of added sugars can lead to a heightened risk of heart disease. Specifically, the study cited showed that people whose daily calories are comprised of 17% to 21% added sugars were at a 38% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
The SOS-Free Diet's sugar-free approach encourages you to rely on the natural sweetness of whole fruits and other unprocessed foods, helping stabilize blood sugar levels and curb sugar cravings.
Is the SOS Diet Backed By Science?
Epidemiological studies and meta-analyses have identified correlations between plant-based diets and reduced risk of chronic degenerative diseases when compared to omnivorous diets. Although research has not yet conclusively proven how plant-based diets prevent and reverse diseases, the nutrients in plant foods are thought to improve health by lowering levels of cellular inflammation and oxidative stress and positively affect gut bacteria composition and metabolites.
The Pleasure Trap
The SOS-Free Diet aims to provide optimal nutrition to prevent and reverse diseases. Additionally, this diet eliminates added salt, oil, and sugar, including refined carbohydrates. These substances increase the pleasurable qualities of food and contribute to a cycle of overconsumption, otherwise known as the “Pleasure Trap.” Completely removing them from the diet can potentially reduce the desire to overeat, especially for those who are particularly susceptible to the addictive qualities of highly processed food.
The SOS-Free Diet encourages the consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds as the main sources of nutrition. The suggested serving sizes are based on a daily caloric intake of 1,500-3,000 kcal. For example, it is recommended to consume 30+ servings of vegetables per day, of which at least two should be of dark leafy greens. Meanwhile, nuts and seeds should only be consumed in small amounts of 1 ounce per day. Animal products, including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, and dairy, added sugar, salt, and oil, and refined grains and other processed foods should be avoided completely.
On A Microlevel
Micronutrients are also an essential part of the SOS-Free Diet, along with a variety of in-season produce and foods of all colors, which should contain all essential nutrients, with the exception of vitamin B12. Therefore, it’s recommended to consume 1,000 mcg of methylcobalamin unless a specific deficiency arises. Small amounts of sea vegetables are also recommended to obtain adequate amounts of iodine.
Do I Need To Buy Organic?
Buying and consuming organic foods is great if it’s affordable, but it should not stop you from consuming foods that fit your budget. The benefits of eating conventionally grown fruits far outweigh the risks from pesticide exposure. As the saying goes, "It's better to eat a conventional apple than an organic Oreo."
OK, But How Does the SOS-Free Diet Work? What Can I Eat?
Transitioning to the SOS-Free Diet requires careful planning and a willingness to explore new culinary horizons.
Though it may feel difficult to make the transition at first, committing to this diet provides a host of health benefits that promote your overall well-being and life-expectancy.
Here are five steps to help you get started:
Stock Up on Whole Foods: Fill your pantry and refrigerator with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. While you’re at it, eliminate any foods containing high levels of added sugars, oils, or salt.
Read Labels Carefully: Pay attention to ingredient labels to ensure that products don't contain added salt, oil, or sugar. The best way to ensure you are staying within healthy limits is to keep track of your daily values, which are as follows — 2,300 mg or less of salt, 5 to 7 teaspoons of oil-based fats, and no more than 24 to 36 grams of added sugars.
Cook at Home: Preparing meals at home gives you full control over the ingredients you use. To replace salt, sugar, and oil in your usual recipes, experiment with herbs, spices, and other natural flavor enhancers. This is also a good opportunity to mix things up and try out new recipes.
Embrace Natural Flavors: Get creative with natural flavor sources such as lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and fresh herbs. While it can take time to get used to the absence of salt, oil, and sugar in your palette, natural flavor enhancers work wonders for crafting delicious meals.
Explore SOS-Free Recipes: The SOS-Free Diet has gained immense popularity over recent years as more and more people strive to reduce their intake of unhealthy foods. Look for SOS-Free recipes online and in cookbooks to discover innovative ways to prepare delicious and nutritious meals.
Try SOS-Free Meal Delivery Services: At Whole Harvest, you'll now find specific meals designed to support the SOS-free diet. Look for the SOS-Free label on our meals.
The Whole Harvest menu includes a wide range of SOS-Free-compliant recipes!
As of this writing, just a few of them include an incredible plant-based burger, the Green Chili Tortilla Casserole, and a Harvest Vegetable Lasagna.
As you can see, going SOS-Free doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite comfort foods!
If anything, eating whole food plant-based and SOS-Free opens the door to wonderful new culinary experiences.
Meet Dr. Alan Goldhamer
Dr. Alan Goldhamer is the founder of TrueNorth Health Center, where they heal patients with a plant-based vegan diet.
This state-of-the-art facility also provides medical and chiropractic services, psychotherapy and counseling, as well as massage and bodywork. He is also director of the Center's groundbreaking residential health education program.
Dr. Goldhamer was the principal investigator in two landmark studies—"Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension," and "Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Borderline Hypertension."
Currently, Dr. Goldhamer is directing a team that is developing a prospective study, incorporating random assignment and long-term follow-up on the cost and clinical outcomes in the treatment of diabetes and high blood pressure with fasting and a health-promoting diet.
Challenges of Following the SOS-Free Diet
While the SOS-Free Diet offers numerous health benefits, it's important to acknowledge the challenges that come with it. Over time, you’ll find your way through all of them to a happier, healthier life!
Flavor Adjustment: Initially, your taste buds might need time to adjust to the absence of salt, oil, and sugar. However, over time, you'll come to appreciate the natural flavors of whole foods. As you transition, it may be beneficial to reduce your intake of salt, oil, and sugar slowly over the course of a few weeks while your body adjusts.
Social Situations: Dining out or attending social gatherings can be challenging, as many restaurant dishes and processed foods contain salt, oil, or sugar. Planning ahead and communicating your dietary preferences makes things easier. Additionally, one “bad” meal is not enough to ruin your progress, so make sure to treat yourself with grace. In the end, you want to do your best without runing your social life!
- Cooking from Scratch: The SOS-Free Diet involves a lot of cooking from scratch, which can be time-consuming for individuals with busy schedules. Meal prepping or ordering from an SOS-Free-friendly meal delivery service, such as Whole Harvest, gives you the boost you need in the middle of the week with ready-to-eat meals you can grab from your fridge.
The SOS-Free Diet is more than a passing dietary trend. It's a lifestyle choice that prioritizes health, well-being, and mindful eating. By eliminating salt, oil, and sugar from your diet, you reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve your overall quality of life.
To help with your transition to the SOS-Free Diet, consider ordering chef-prepared meals from Whole Harvest. They’re the leader in whole food plant-based meal delivery and are 100% committed to supporting your health goals.
Visit the Whole Harvest website today to get started.
Goldhamer, Alan. “An Introduction to the Whole-Plant-Food, SOS-FREE Diet.” www.healthpromoting.com, 10 September, 2019. Link