Why You Should Care About Your Salt Intake


We have all heard that a low salt/low sodium diet is important for heart health, but let’s face it, most of us aren’t concerned about that right now. We go to the doctors and our blood pressure is normal, we’re young and healthy, so why care?

Have you eaten out and woken up the next day with puffy eyes? Felt bloated after indulging on fast food? Salt may be the culprit! When we eat salt, our bodies hold onto the fluid we drink, instead of filtering it out. This not only raises our blood pressure, but also creates those puffy ankles and extra pounds (yes, pounds) of water weight.

As a nurse, I have seen people gain more than 5 pounds overnight. Those pounds were not fat from cupcakes, but water weight from a high salt diet (Yes, that’s how much weight you can ACTUALLY put on from salt, in one day!). My first question for these patients is, “what did you have for dinner last night?” Common answer, “Chinese food.”

So, how can you reduce the salt in your diet and lose some water weight? It’s easy if you follow two simple rules. Eat as much home cooking as possible and read labels.

Prepackaged foods, canned foods, and premade sauces are usually LOADED with salt. This is how they preserve it to last longer, and keep it from going bad. When the food is fresh, it doesn’t need all of that salt. When you make food from scratch, you are cutting an amazing amount of salt. You can also see exactly how much you’re adding; you can’t say the same for restaurants or food trucks. Go ahead and add a little salt to your eggs, but stay away from those frozen breakfast bowls. Unless you have an incredibly heavy hand when seasoning with salt, if you make all your meals from home, you will not go over your daily allowance of salt.

Lets be honest, who has time to cook all their meals from scratch? Not many. This leads us to our second rule, read labels. When you can’t (or really don’t want to) spend hours in the kitchen, spend 60 seconds looking on the back of a package. Your recommended daily amount of salt in a day is 2,000 mg or 2 grams. Don’t have time to make soup from scratch? I get it. But remember, not all canned soup is created equally! Read a label from Campbell’s soup and you will find some of those tiny cans have more than 1800 mg! That’s almost one day’s intake. You will find other brands have 800 mg for the entire can. Do you like deli meat? Instead of the prepackaged turkey or ham, go to the counter and have them slice it for you! Not only does it taste better, there is no added salt to keep it from going bad. Even some restaurants (mostly chains), will have a menu with nutritional facts, if you ask. Can’t decide between pasta or chicken? A difference of 1,000 mg of salt may help you make up your mind.

When reading labels just remember to check the serving size. Labels try to trick you by saying one can of soup is 2.5 servings, which means you have to multiply all the numbers listed on the label by 2.5 (Who really eats less than half a can of soup?).

If you watch the salt in your diet, you will drop a few pounds of water weight, have your jeans fit better, and loose those bags under your eyes. If you create healthy eating habits now, your body will thank you later.

– Paige Medeiros, RN BSN

Photo Credit Emmy Smith