Over the past 20 years, researchers have linked high sodium intake to an increased risk for high blood pressure for some individuals. Because of this, many people have come to believe that sodium is harmful to the body. However, this is not true because sodium is a valuable nutrient that is essential for survival. Sodium assists with transmission of the nerve signals and aids in muscle contraction and relaxation. The only thing that Americans have problems with is the over consumption of sodium because many snack foods are high in sodium as well as hidden in other foods. High blood pressure is more common in people who consume high sodium diets. Consuming excessive sodium also has been shown to cause increase urinary excretion of calcium in some people. Although sodium deficiencies are rare in the US, they can occur in very active people who drink a lot of water and fail to replace sodium.
A 2007 study in Obesity Research shows that high salt diets are directly associated with more fat cells in the body. Salt makes the fat cells you already have become denser. If you eat a lot salt, your kidneys have to work overtime to excrete the excess. Most people in the US get 4,000 to 6,000 mg of salt a day when the recommended intake is 1,500 to 2,400 mg. Salt builds up in the tissues causing salt-saturated cells and toxicity. This damages the cells and makes the cells not function at their best meaning the bodily processes will suffer. A high salt diet hardens the arteries which makes it more difficult to burn fat. Salt also increases food cravings, which may be the reason why high salt intakes have been linked to obesity.
Ingesting more salt than your body needs results in you retaining more water and becoming bloated. Sodium attracts and holds water increasing blood volume meaning the body expands. When you eat a lot of salt, you could be holding 5-10 pounds of extra water.
Chronically over consuming salt damages the heart, brain, kidneys and arteries. High blood pressure is a very common symptom although even if your blood pressure isn’t high, you may still have salt toxicity without knowing it. The more salt we consume, the more damage we put on the heart. The heart is the most important muscle because it isn’t functioning properly, blood and nutrients can’t get into the muscles, tissues and organs. Salt also contributes to cardiovascular disease which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Lowering salt intake could lower your risk of stomach cancer, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.
Examples of high sodium foods:
- Regular peanut butter
- Frozen foods
- Tomato sauce
- Potato chips
- Salted pretzels/popcorn
- Salted nuts
- Many dips/dressings
- A lot of different soups
- Check labels for MSG (monosodium glutamate) often found in chinese food, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate
Checking ingredients as well as food labels is important when finding out how much a product contains of salt. Keep in mind that many processed foods are loaded with extra sodium. Eating fresh foods, choosing low sodium products, removing salt from recipes whenever possible, limiting sodium condiments such as ketchup, soy sauce, dressings, and mustard, and using herbs and spices to enhance foods are all steps to limiting your sodium intake. It is important to cutback on your sodium gradually to make your taste buds adjust.