You probably know the expression “too much of a good thing”. It’s a saying meant to communicate that anything in excess can become bad for you. Subtly, it reminds us to use moderation and balance in all areas of life. At Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we like to think both traits are especially relevant to food and living a healthy, balanced life. Nutritionally, too much of a good thing, like food, can lead to excess weight gain and even chronic disease. Certain food ingredients like sodium can cause severe health conditions.
Last week, we addressed the importance of sodium reduction for heart health, but did you know that sodium can have a major impact on weight as well? Sodium and bodyweight share a much stronger connection than you may have thought.
Sodium and Weight
Excess sodium intake can lead to substantial weight gain through water retention. Inside our bodies, sodium naturally binds to water to balance fluids and electrolytes. Overeating salty food can lead to a buildup of sodium and subsequently, water in our bodies. This contributes to body weight. You may notice an increase in bloating, swelling and weight after a sodium-heavy meal. The swelling, often found in lower extremities and abdominal regions, is referred to as edema. It can have a detrimental impact on your cardiovascular system, especially your heart. Furthermore, excess sodium can lead to imbalanced fluid levels, chronic fluid overload and increased blood pressure.
When starting a weight loss plan, you may notice a drastic decrease in weight at first. Initial weight loss from decreasing calories is primarily comprised of water and glycogen (the body’s source of short-term energy). As glycogen stores are depleted, weight loss can slow down or plateau. We lose fat stores more slowly, which is one reason why our medical weight loss programs here at Cederquist are designed to be 12 weeks. Generally, you should aim to lose about one to two pounds per week. Even if you are losing fat, you may not notice depending on the amount of sodium in your diet. So, how much sodium should you consume and how much is too much?
How much is too much?
Most people should aim for no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. That’s equivalent to about one teaspoon. People who struggle with high blood pressure or edema should strive to consume around 1,500 mg or less per day. That can be a substantial reduction and challenging for many people. To ease the transition to a lower sodium eating style, consider the following tips:
- Select low or no-sodium options. Many foods are available in low- or no-salt versions. In grocery stores, you can select items like unsalted peanuts and low-sodium soups. Restaurants also offer lower-sodium options. You can find them by reviewing restaurants’ nutrition information.
- Use a variety of seasonings. Lemon juice, herbs and sodium-free seasonings like Mrs. Dash are excellent alternatives to salt. You don’t have to worry about their sodium content, and you won’t sacrifice flavor!
- Limit fast food. Many restaurants and eateries use salt in excess to season foods. This is especially true of fast-food restaurants. To control your sodium intake, it’s best to limit eating out. Instead, opt for cooking at home. There you have greater control of what’s in your food, and how it’s prepared.
- Look for hidden sources. Sodium is frequently used as a food preservative. Some foods act as an unexpected source of sodium. Pickled foods, jerky and even smoked salmon contribute to our salt intake. Take these “hidden sources” into consideration when planning your daily meals. Try including these foods in moderation, not every day.
- Read nutrition labels. Reading the Nutrition Facts Label can be an important strategy for lowering your sodium intake. All labels list total sodium in milligrams (mg) and percent daily value (%DV). %DV is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which may be more than your recommended calorie intake, so it’s best to focus on total milligrams. Here’s a quick guide for determining if a food contains more sodium than you may want:
Salt/Sodium-Free = less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium = less than 35 mg of sodium per serving
Low Sodium = less than 140 mg of sodium per serving
Reduced sodium = the product has at least 25% less salt than the regular product
Light in sodium = the product has at least 50% less salt than the regular product
No salt added = No salt is added during processing, but it may not be salt-free
Start SlowSodium gives food flavor, but consumed in excess it can cause unwanted water retention, bloating and weight increase. To curtail your sodium intake, try the tips above. It can help to start gradually. You can try one recommendation to start and slowly increase to incorporating other tips for added health benefits. Always consult a doctor or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet plan. Here, at Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we are happy to help! Our team of providers works with you to develop a personalized program that can help you make sustainable health changes and lose weight. If you are interested in improving your nutrition status, give us a call. Contact (239) 494-6159 to schedule an appointment.