I definitely get riled up about the ridiculous amounts of sodium found in most processed foods. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of salt, because I most definitely do like it. But, I prefer to be in control of how much sodium I consume, instead of the food companies and restaurants.

Though I don’t have a problem with high blood pressure, I am hypersensitive (or maybe just hyper-aware) to the fluid retention effects of excess sodium, that is to say, I really notice a difference in my body when I have gone over the limit.

I find it extremely hard to find processed foods which contain less than 300 mg per serving, and when I do, often they really don’t taste that great. I think part of the problem is that as a society we have become so accustomed to foods that have a lot of sodium in them, we only notice when it’s not there.

I consider these examples to be either unexpected sources of sodium or unnecessarily high or both:

Watch your servings of this stuff or your pants won't fit the next day.

Watch your servings of this stuff or your pants won't fit the next day.

  • A slice of Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread has 130mg/per slice
  • A 6 ounce Stonyfield Low fat Vanilla Yogurt has 105 mg/per serving
  • 1 slice of Kraft Deli Deluxe American Slice has 340mg/serving
  • A 1/2 cup serving of Classico Vodka sauce has 490 mg/serving
  • Fiber One’s Cottage Cheese, a 1/2 cup serving has 460 mg sodium.

Recently,  the CDC posted an article stating that most Americans should consume less sodium than the recommended, which is <2300 mg sodium per day (which is about 1  teaspoon of salt). “Most Americans” is referring to people who are either:

  1. Over the age of 40
  2. African American
  3. Have high blood pressure

If you fall into one of these groups, the CDC recommends that you should consume 1,500 mg/day or less. Just to put things into perspective, the average American consumes 3,436 mg sodium daily.

It’s not that we don’t need sodium in our diets, because we do. It has many functions in the body, such as:

  • Maintaining electrochemical charges across cell membranes
  • Helping with absorption of certain ingredients
  • Maintaining (or raising it) our blood pressure (a rule of thumb is that water follows salt, so, this is why too much salt leads to fluid retention)

"Bang for Your Buck", a good amount of questionable fiber and lots of salt

"Bang for Your Buck", a good amount of questionable fiber and lots of salt

Consuming foods with lower amounts of sodium is relatively easy. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are very naturally low in sodium, as are most fresh protein sources.

I highly recommend reading food labels, if you don’t already. It’s actually like a game to me at this point, because the amounts you see sometimes are so astronomical, you have to wonder how bad the food tasted that all of that sodium needed to be added in.

Some processed foods are labeled with the following:

Sodium free = < 5 mg per serving

Very low =  < 35 mg per serving

Low = < 140 mg per serving

Reduced sodium= 25% less than original formula

No added salt =  No additional salt has been added during processing

While I realize that not everyone has issues with high blood pressure, and for some people with high blood pressure, it has nothing to do with salt consumption, I do think from the perspective of maintaining one’s weight on a daily basis, it’s worth monitoring sodium intake.

While fluid retention is not real weight gain, after a salty meal at a restaurant you can easily go up 3-5 pounds in one day. This effect will mostly be seen in your clothing not fitting as well, and perhaps puffy eyelids. But, perhaps, most importantly, it might cause your confidence to falter, especially if you are on a weight loss regimen or diet.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to sodium, fresh foods are best. Making your own foods is ideal because you can control the amount of salt per serving. Read labels to avoid excess intake, and if you do have a salt laden meal, know that in a few days the fluid will come off and be more aware in the future.

References:

http://www.fda.gov/fdac/foodlabel/sodium.html#guide

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/sodium/

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