Sodium is one of those things that we take in without really thinking about it. It is found in foods and we don’t always control the amount of sodium we consume.
Statistics have shown that the average American will use at least 5 teaspoons of salt each day, which is around 20 times more than the body actually needs to function correctly. This can lead to high blood pressure and bad volumes of blood in the body. It can also lead to the body holding back a lot of water, which might give the impression that someone is fat.
Cutting down on sodium is recommended in every diet and eating fresh foods will be one of the fastest ways to do so. In this article, you will learn more about sodium and some of the effects it has on the body. We have also included a couple of tips that can be used as guidelines for reducing the amount of sodium you ingest.
Why follow a low sodium diet?
As mentioned, sodium will determine how much water or fluid is held back in the human body. When you have a lot of sodium in your system, the natural way to restore balance will be for the body to retain water. Since sodium also regulates the blood pressure in your body, you might also find yourself with high blood pressure and sometimes even cholesterol problems.
2000 milligrams of sodium is the common target that many should aim for when reducing sodium. Since it is really prominent in fast foods or foods you order from your restaurant, this will be one of the first places you need to cut down. Not only will it be healthier, but your budget will also be smiling with the cheaper costs of your foods.
A Guide to Following a Low Sodium Diet
While these tips might be related to all people looking to lose weight, we have primarily included them for those looking to reduce the amount of sodium they consume each day. Following these tips should help you reduce your blood pressure and control the amount of water retained by your body when you are dieting.
1. Takeout is a no-go
As we have mentioned, restaurants and takeout shops will preserve the freshness of their meats using a brine. This brine will add more salt to your meets and since most of them also use a lot of oil, they will be adding even more sodium to your food. One takeout meal might contain more than enough sodium to last you the entire day.
If you are serious about cutting down on sodium, you should prepare your own meals instead of ordering takeout. Rather opt for a healthy salad or steak that you have cooked yourself. Preparing your own food for work is fundamentally important when it comes to reducing the amount of sodium you ingest.
2. Choose low sodium foods
There is no need to spoil your diet and eat the same food every day. You can simply take some time to study the foods that may be high in sodium. If you are serious about reducing the amount of sodium you ingest, you need to avoid a few foods. Here are a couple of the most commonly used foods that are generally high in sodium:
- Smoked or cured foods: Smoked or cured foods make use of salt to preserve the food. This includes canned foods and meats that you find at your supermarket that might be aged. We recommend swopping the aged foods for something fresh.
- Frozen foods: While it is not always possible to avoid eating frozen foods, you should cut down on eating frozen meals. However, if you buy and freeze your own meals, this will not make them saltier.
- Canned entrees: While they might be very attractive, things like canned chilly and ravioli have been cured as well. The preservatives added are very high in sodium and this will not help you lower your levels.
- Salted foods: Things like nuts and peanuts can be very beneficial to your health. However, you need to choose the unsalted versions. While they might not have such a great taste, they will be lower in sodium.
- Soft drinks: This one is something that many people don’t even know. Soft drinks have a very high sodium content and this needs to be avoided at all cost if you are looking to reduce your intake.
While there are many more foods that are high in sodium, these are the most common things you will come across most often. Most foods do have a label and if you read the label, you will see the sodium content. There are also many fitness and health apps that you can use for find out the about the sodium content of your favorite foods.
3. Consider choosing alternatives
Alternative foods are readily available and they don’t always need to be expensive. Some of the alternatives relate directly to the  paleo diet and this means eating foods that have not been processed. We recommend looking for fresh foods when you are cutting down on sodium. Here are a couple of low sodium food alternatives:
- Fresh meats: Fresh is always better, not only will it taste better, but without any preservatives added, the meats will be much healthier as well. Removing blood is simple and this will evaporate as you are cooking.
- Unsalted nuts: Fortunately, most brands have an alternative product to the salted versions and using unsalted nuts will certainly help you combat high blood pressure.
- Eggs and canned fish: Eggs are packed full of protein and essential fats that your body needs to function, they also have virtually no sodium. When selecting canned fish, you should look for the low-sodium alternatives as indicated.
- Low sodium spices: Contrary to popular belief, low sodium spices are readily available on the market today. They might be a little more expensive, but if you are on a budget, mayonnaise and vinegar can be excellent alternatives and it will add some acidity to your meals.
There are many unsalted foods on the market today and you only need to do a little digging to find them. These are some of the pointers that you can keep in mind when selecting the ingredients for your next meal.
Benefits of a low sodium diet
Sodium should not be avoided completely as the body will need it. However, it can be found in foods and you are more than likely to eat enough sodium by sticking to a healthy diet. Here are a couple of the benefits you can expect to see when you cut down on sodium:
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- A decrease in water weight
- More energy during the day
- Better overall health
- Your food expenses will be lower.
While it is not possible to completely avoid sodium, you can definitely control the amount you consume. These tips should enable you to control your sodium intake, which is especially important if you are struggling with heart or blood pressure-related issues.
We would like to thank you for reading this article and encourage you to share some of your thoughts on the low sodium diet. Let us know if you have ever used it and what the results were. We look forward to reading your comments.
Citations and References:
• He J, Gu D, Chen J, et al. Gender difference in blood pressure responses to dietary sodium intervention in the GenSalt study. J Hypertens. 2009; 27( 1): 40– 73
John has been a fitness enthusiast for over 10 years, starting out while struggling with obesity as a teenager. Over the years he has advised numerous clients on how to transform their physiques and their lives. As a writer on Nutrition Inspector he aims to help others achieve real results by staying clear of the common hype and false claims in the supplement industry!