Sodium's effects on health and weight
Sodium is a nutrient we need. But, as salt, it’s also an additive much too prevalent in prepared and processed foods, used as a preserver and binder, and flavor, color, and texture enhancer. So, while feasting on flavorful food, we’re saturated in sodium.
Sodium’s starring role
Sodium is a vital mineral and the primary ion and electrolyte in the body, providing multiple health benefits. It regulates blood pressure and volume, the fluid inside and outside of body cells, and nerve and muscle functioning, as well as transmits electrical impulses in the body.
In fact, a serious deficiency in sodium can, at the extreme, fatally shut down the nervous system. But sodium deficiencies are rare, as most of us consume much more than we need.
Overdoing the salt
Salt-laden restaurants and fast foods, packaged snacks, processed meats...we’re swimming in sodium, while health authorities have relatively low recommendations.
1,500 milligrams daily (age 51 and older)
2,300 milligrams max daily (age 14 and older)
In the United States, the average person consumes double that amount, says the American Heart Association. We indulge in everyday high-sodium (20% daily value vs. low-sodium at 5%) foods like cheese, nuts, salty snacks, pickles, and olives, plus sprinklings of seasoned salt!
Such excess sodium attracts water into the bloodstream, and this increases blood pressure, linked to heart disease, kidney failure, and stroke. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, sodium is associated with high calorie intake, even though sodium has no calories of its own. How can this be?
Sodium’s effect on weight
Sodium contains zero calories and fat. But it can cause water retention, which translates to temporary weight gain—up to 2 pounds with a 400-milligram increase in sodium. Conversely, by cutting sodium down to 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams over seven days, you can lose 3 pounds. Simply losing water weight doesn’t address the fat in foods, so “sodium restriction” can only play a brief supporting role on the stage of weight loss.
Adding to the dilemma, sodium is linked to obesity, albeit indirectly. That’s because salty foods also are often high in fat and empty calories—as much as1,844 calories for a fast-food meal.
Taking healthy steps
Start by regulating your sodium intake. You can determine your intake per serving by dividing the daily recommended amount appropriate for you (shown above) by the number of times you sit down to eat daily. Then, with that amount in mind, check the Nutrition Facts labels on foods before you buy.
“A healthy eating pattern limits saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium” (U.S. Dietary Guidelines). If you replace processed foods with a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll be eating low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods—the healthiest way to lose weight. Organic, plant-based Veestro meal plans and weight-loss plans help you do just that.
Learn more about how bad diets are responsible for more deaths than smoking.