It’s no secret that Americans have a taste for salty snacks. In fact, 90% of the sodium that we eat comes from salt. Our bodies require sodium to function properly, but a lot of people consume more than they need. This can lead to serious health risks like Cardiovascular Disease and high blood pressure (which affects nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults). Reducing sodium intake can be difficult at first, but the results will benefit your body both inside and out.
1) Lowered Blood Pressure
The most important advantage of a low sodium diet is a healthy heart. Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death of the U.S. – making healthier decisions could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Reducing your sodium intake will lead to lower risk of heart disease or stroke.
Technically, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day as part of a healthy eating pattern. But what does this actually look like?
One of the easiest ways to reduce sodium is to make careful snack choices. Try to cut back on processed foods, and look for products that say “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” on the package. This may mean switching from your favorite brand to a different choice, but your heart will thank you.
2) Reduced Water Weight
That’s right – consuming less salt awill help you get your summer body ready for action. Sodium attracts water by nature, so the more you consume, the more your body strives to maintain a steady water-to-sodium balance. Increased water retention can lead to puffiness, bloating, and weight gain.
Another trick to lower your sodium intake is dining out less at restaurants. While processed foods are the leading contributor, restaurant meals account for about 25% of the average American’s sodium consumption.
When you do eat out, do some research on your restaurant of choice and see if there any “heart-healthy” options. If not, simply ask that your meal be served without salt. These are simple ways that cutting out sodium will help you look and feel better. Be careful though – water weight is different from body fat. Any water weight you lose will return if you increase sodium intake to previous levels!
3) Fresh, Whole Food Benefits
Cooking meals at home is a sure-fire way to cut out the sodium found in processed and restaurant meals. You can control the amount of sodium you add to your meals when you cook at home by using fresh, unprocessed meat.
Use herbs and spices or onions and garlic to season your food instead of adding salt. You can also cook by grilling, roasting, or sautéing – this will bring out natural flavors in the food and reduce the need for additional seasoning.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium – even canned fruit and frozen vegetables are good options when they don’t contain added sauces or seasoning. In addition, choosing foods that are high in potassium such as tomatoes, potatoes, and bananas will help to counter the effects of sodium.
Changing Your Lifestyle
Reducing sodium intake is not an easy task. You will have to make a concentrated effort to eat carefully as the U.S. is a marketplace for high sodium foods. Still, it only takes a few weeks to start seeing results. Your body will adjust over time and start to naturally prefer a lower-sodium diet!