We usually get our daily doses of sodium through table salt. Most foods we eat in fast foods or some restaurants are loaded with sodium to enhance the taste profile of a dish. We also find them in consumer goods that include canned goods and other processed foods. To lengthen their shelf life, these types of consumer goods are added with preservatives. This substance is added to processed foods to prevent spoilage. Such a process may cause harm to individuals if consumed for long term.
What Is A Low Sodium Diet?
People living in the United States are estimated to consume at least 3 teaspoons or more of sodium per day. This is over the daily recommended intake of sodium per day which is about only ¼ teaspoon.
However, sodium is not all bad. In fact, it’s needed by the body to function properly. Sodium supports the body’s fluid absorption, thus, regulating blood pressure levels. However, eating more than what is prescribed leads to health consequences like high blood pressure and impaired fluid retention which results in swelling in certain parts of the body.
Low sodium or sodium-controlled diet is essentially a diet plan which aims to limit sodium intake. It typically requires an individual to monitor his sodium intake and consumption should be within 2,000 to 3,000 mg or 2 to 3 grams of sodium intake per day. For example, table salt has an approximate of 2,300 mg or 2.3 grams of sodium per teaspoon.
This type of diet program is usually offered to individuals suffering from medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or hypertension. This is to help them manage symptoms, recover, and avoid complications. However, it may be better to avoid them altogether to improve the recovery period.
Health Complications From Excessive Consumption Of Sodium
As mentioned, sodium is an essential part of our diet but may lead to health concerns if it’s continually eaten in excess. Too much salt in the body impairs its ability to absorb water leading to swelling. Also, these excess fluids put pressure on the heart resulting in high blood pressure. This, in turn, increases the risk of kidney diseases, stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
According to statistics, it’s estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans are suffering from high blood pressure. About 1 in every 3 individuals is likely to develop hypertension in the United States.
It may regulate your blood pressure levels
The primary benefit of a low sodium diet is to lower blood pressure levels of individuals with cases of hypertension and prevent further complications.
One particular research shows that patients suffering from high blood pressure have a dramatic improvement in their condition when they limited their sodium intake.
Studies show that people on average reduce about 2.82 mmHg of diastolic blood pressure and 5.39 mmHg of systolic blood pressure when sodium consumption is restricted.
It ceases further damage to the kidneys
One of the main causes of kidney problems is water and sodium imbalance in the body. Thus, the usual medical practice for this disease involves moderation of sodium and beverage consumption.
It aids weight loss
Processed foods and the foods we normally order in fast foods are highly concentrated in sodium and very high in calories. Thus, continual and excessive consumption from high-sodium foods may lead to weight gain and obesity.
Studies show that a low sodium diet promotes weight loss by eliminating cravings for foods with high levels of salt.
Although there may be events that your brain signals for salty foods, you satisfy these cravings by simply eating healthier options. It may also modify your taste buds making the foods once you enjoyed unpleasing and salty.
It may help to prevent cancer
Some types of cancers are actually associated with high sodium diets. The most common of which are cancers that develop within the gastrointestinal tracts such as the stomach.
Studies revealed that high sodium diets can damage the tissue linings of the stomach. Thus, it leads to inflammations and promotes the growth of a bacterium called H. Pylori which increases the risk of cancer.
There are also studies stating that transitioning from a high-sodium diet to a diet that mostly consists of fruits and vegetables counteracts the effects of the inflammation.
Low Sodium Diet Guidelines
Listed below is only a sample of a low sodium diet. It may also vary depending on your doctor or dietician.
- Eliminate the usage of table salt and salt shakers. This also includes other condiments that contain high levels of sodium such as iodized salt, soy sauce, onion salt, seasonings, fermented foods, garlic salt, and monosodium glutamate.
- Always opt for fresh foods and avoid processed ones.
- You may try more natural flavorings to add tartness to your dishes. Examples are vinegar, lime, orange, and lemon.
- You may also use other spices like garlic, onion, and fresh herbs.
- Avoid processed foods like corned beef or canned sardines.
- For refrigerated foods, always refer to the packaging label and sodium content mustn’t exceed 600 mg.
- The American Heart Association also provided six foods that we should avoid if we’re to maintain a healthy heart. It includes pizza, sandwiches, cured meat, tortilla wraps, and soup. It also includes poultry meats that are injected with sodium to lengthen shelf life.
Fresh foods like unprocessed meats, fruits, and vegetables also contain sodium. However, sodium from fresh sources is way smaller comparing to the abovementioned food sources.
Potential Health Concerns
Although regulating your sodium intake is beneficial and healthy, it may also result in health problems if it’s significantly reduced.
One particular example is cases when patients with heart disease gained improved condition but at the same time experienced side effects.
A study was conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois on 833 participants with heart problems. This is to research the overall effects of low sodium diets on their health. The results of the study actually connect low sodium intake with increased risk of hospitalization and/or death.
Some studies also show that reducing your sodium intake that’s lower than the recommended daily allowance may actually increase cholesterol levels instead of decreasing it.