While sodium is essential to our health, too much of it can cause some serious health risks, which is why sodium remains a silent killer for many people.
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The average Canadian consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, more than double the 1,500 milligrams recommended. Excessive sodium consumption causes more deaths than any other single dietary factor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Scary stuff.
There are plenty of reasons to reduce your sodium intake, and here are just a few.
1. Reduce Bloating
Feeling a bloated? Your canned soup lunch may be to blame. Although sodium doesn’t cause permanent weight gain, a high-sodium diet can result in water retention, leading to temporary gains on the scale and tighter jeans. Your body retains more water to help dilute the sodium you put in it, which causes that puffy, heavy feeling. About 77 per cent of the sodium we eat comes from sodium added to processed foods and food outlets. Food labels cannot claim a product is “healthy” if it has more than 480 mg of sodium per labeled serving for individual foods or more than 600 mg of sodium per labeled serving for meals or main dishes, so make sure to always check your labels; better yet, prepare your own, sodium-free meals at home with all-natural ingredients. The pinch of salt you add to your homemade meals is nothing compared to the heaps of sodium added to pre-made products by manufacturers or fast food joints.
2. Maintain Good Heart Health
According to the CDC, 10 percent of cardiovascular disease is caused by consuming too much sodium. A high amount of sodium in the bloodstream can pull water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. More blood flowing through means higher blood pressure, forcing your heart to work overtime. This stress can lead to serious heart complications down the line. Consuming high amounts of sodium can also lead to stroke, heart disease, and heart failure. Remember, just because you’re not picking up the salt shaker, doesn’t mean your food isn’t packed full of sodium already. Eating less bread, pre-packaged foods and processed meats are easy ways to maintain a more heart-healthy diet.
3. Lower Your Blood Pressure
About six million, or roughly 20 per cent, of adult Canadians have high blood pressure, and kids are twice as likely to develop high blood pressure by maintaining a high-sodium diet. For some people, consuming an excess of sodium can lead to heightened blood pressure. Of course, high blood pressure and heart health are intricately linked: consuming excess sodium increases blood flow, which results in an individual having high blood pressure, and high blood pressure can lead to heart failure. It’s especially wise to decrease your sodium consumption as you age, since blood pressure naturally increases you get older. According to the CDC, high blood pressure is the most important and preventable risk factor for cardiovascular disease death and disability around the world. By simply reducing the sodium from your diet, you can create a recipe for a healthier life down the road. If Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg of sodium per day, it could result in a 25.6 per cent overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in healthcare savings.
4. Reduce Your Risk Of Osteoporosis
Studies have shown that there is a correlation between salt intake and calcium excretion in young and adolescent women, and that reduced peak bone mass may be a result of a diet high in salt. Furthermore, reduced peak bone mass is associated with a greater risk of developing osteoporosis later on in life. One Japanese study found that older women who consumed the highest amount of sodium had more than four times the risk of a non-vertebral fracture than a group of women who maintained a diet that was low in sodium. Bottom line? Better safe than sorry: You want to work on building strong bones, not weakening them. Focus on reducing your sodium intake while consuming vitamin D and calcium to help maintain a healthy bone structure — and don’t forget to incorporate high-impact exercises for healthy bones.
Although many of us crave salty foods, it’s time to break the habit with some good, old-fashioned common sense. You don’t have to worry so much about sprinkling some salt on your salads, or adding a dash here to your homemade stews and soups. If you really want to cut down on sodium, stop eating pre-packaged, frozen foods and canned soups, and avoid hitting fast food joints and restaurants as much as possible.
By cooking most of your own meals at home, you can control your sodium intake and avoid these risk factors.
- American Heart Organization
- Endocrine Society
- World Health Organization
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention