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Go Easy on the Salt Shaker

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
March 2016
Go Easy on the Salt Shaker

Eating too much salt can cause fluid retention and bloating—which may show up as excess pounds on the weighing scale.

While sodium and chloride, the two components of salt, are electrolytes essential to our survival, mega doses are not required. According to the American Heart Association, “because sodium naturally bonds to water, the extra sodium pulls water into the bloodstream, increasing the total amount of blood in the body. With more blood flowing through the blood vessels, blood pressure increases. It’s like turning up the water to a garden hose—the pressure in the hose increases as more water is blasted through it. Over time, high blood pressure may overstretch or injure the blood vessel walls and speed the build-up of gunky plaque that can block blood flow. The added pressure also overtaxes the heart by forcing it to pump more blood through the body. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease.”

Salt is available in some amount in just about every food product. Fruits and vegetables contain a minimal amount of salt whereas processed, packaged, and frozen foods contain more. So what is the minimum amount of salt required for your body? According to the FDA, the dietary recommended intake for sodium is 1500 milligrams for adults up to age 50 and less for those over age 50. According to the American Heart Association, it is 2,000 to 2,300 mg for adults. The elderly and those with hypertension should consume less. Only endurance athletes are recommended to consume more to replenish the amount of sodium lost in sweat. Keeping that in mind, most of us consume close to an alarming 5000 mg per day!

How do you limit your salt intake? First of all, take a look at how much you are consuming on a given day and you might be surprised! Salt is in every food product and at the end of the day it all adds up. Traditional Indian packaged foods such as frozen curries, saag paneer, channa masala, parathas, etc., can easily pack in anywhere from 400 to 900 mg per serving. If not careful, you can easily exceed your daily requirement of salt in just one meal. Did you know that salt is even found in condiments? If you are a fan of fast food and are always eating out, you are definitely consuming more salt than required.

Once you have an idea of how much salt you are consuming, the following are ways to reduce your salt intake:
• Purchase food products that are ‘low-salt’ or ‘no-salt added.’
• Get rid of the salt in your salt shaker at the dinner table and replace it with a product that is called “No-Salt” (salt flavor without the sodium) which is readily available at grocery stores.1
• Make use of other seasonings such as pepper, cumin, chilies, and lemon juice.
• Try to eat more whole foods such as fruits and vegetables and cook your meals as much as possible limiting salt.
• Avoid frozen packaged foods and curry sauces that come in jars along with bagged snacks such as chips, pretzels, etc.
• Always rinse canned beans/peas/lentils to remove excess salt that is used for preservation and if possible use the fresher variety.
• Avoid pickles, olives, and bottled sauces, especially soy sauce which contains over 800mg of sodium in just one tablespoon!
• When eating out, request that your food be prepared without salt or very little salt. (You’ll be surprised how much restaurants are willing to comply.)
• Finally, get smart about reading food labels and comparing different products.

1. Warnings: Persons with diabetes, heart or kidney disease, or persons receiving medical treatment should consult a physician before using a sodium-free salt, as these products can be dangerous if you have certain conditions (notably chronic kidney disease) or if you take certain hypertension medications, including ACE inhibitors (such as captopril, lisinopril and benazepril) and potassium-sparing diuretics.


[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404)-376-5655; info@aartifitness.com. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]

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