Monday, January 2, 2012

Pass The Salt Please

Losing weight for the sake of losing weight is a great first step, but ultimately you should be focusing on an all-encompassing plan to improve your health.  Certainly, you don't need to overwhelm yourself in the beginning, but as you slowly make progress changing your lifestyle in such a way as to burn off pounds instead of add them on, you should also start taking notes on exactly what all is going into your mouth.  Sodium is a great example.

Sodium (salt is the main source) is long associated with contributing to high blood pressure, but it really has a lot more far ranging effects on your body.  A recent study found that a diet high in sodium can lead to all kinds of medical issues including heart disease.  An even more important aspect of the study was a finding that the ratio of sodium to potassium was even more important, than just the amount of sodium consumed.  A comparison of people who had a high sodium-to-potassium ratio versus people who had the opposite ratio, found that those in the first group were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from ANY cause, and more than twice as likely to die from ischemic heart disease. (Results were over a period of 14.8 years)

Considering that 90% of the consumed sodium in the U.S. comes from salt, and 75% of that comes from processed and restaurant foods, it certainly makes a case that what we eat could be killing us.  It's already a known fact that those same foods tend to be high in calories, fat and cholesterol, so here is yet another reason that closely controlling what you eat can have a huge impact on not only your weight, but also your health.  (Salt added via home cooking only accounts for a minor percentage of the daily sodium intake.)

Another great example of where sodium finds its way into our bodies is soft drinks - even the diet versions.  My Doctor told me a few years ago, that consuming a lot of diet soft drinks can lead to water weight gain.  Technically its temporary, as the body can flush it out, but if there is a consistent flow coming in, then there tends to be a consistent amount held.  This becomes a case for drinking more water (which will flush out the retained water) and less beverages that contain sodium - sports drinks, tea, lemonade, soft drinks, etc.

The same concept applies to all foods, not just soft drinks.  Large quantities of sodium from any source can cause water retention which yields extra pounds. (NOTE - Sodium in and of itself is not fattening and does not cause weight gain.)

Reducing your intake of sodium is just another piece of the overall healthy lifestyle puzzle.  Focus on "baby-steps".  If you are like me, and tend to drink a lot of diet soft drinks, try to gradually switch over to water by substituting water every other time you reach for a beverage.  You may never completely kick the soft drink habit, but you can easily reduce your daily intake significantly.  In addition focus on staying away from restaurants, especially fast food ones, and preparing more meals at home using fresh natural ingredients where possible.  And instead of using salt to enhance the flavor, experiment with herbs and spices that add zest without harmful effects.

So next time someone asks you to "pass the salt" go with a Hail Mary throw, over their head and into the closest trash can.  Lose the salt, save a life...

For more information on this subject, read the article by Jane E. Brody of the New York Times News Service.

No comments:

Post a Comment