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Salt and Weight Loss - Foods Low in Sodium

Most weight loss advice focuses on eliminating bad sugars from our diet. Let’s shine the light on the bearing of too much salt in the diet and answer your questions and concerns about sodium.


As the major focus has been on sugar consumption, the public may be misinformed when it comes to the importance of moderating sodium intake.

With weight loss advice being so focused on eliminating bad sugar from our diet, it is time to shine the light on the bearing of too much salt in the diet and answer, "How much sodium to too much?" and other questions about the widely consumed mineral.

Why Salt is Bad for You

Before addressing the question, "Why is salt bad for you?" it is important to mention sodium undeniably deserves a spot in a well-balanced diet. The mineral and electrolyte balances and normalizes fluids in the body, helps send nerve impulses, and impacts muscle function.

The negativity of sodium mostly stems from its large intake in the Americanized diet, particularly in the forms of processed, convenience foods with added salt.

In fact, the average American diet consumes approximately 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily. To put this number into perspective, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) and American Heart Association (AHA) recommend no more than 2,300 mg per day.

Too much salt is well-known for majorly increasing the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension), which accordingly leads to the risk of a stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases.

But researchers from the University of Helsinki suggest salt intake is not only a significant risk factor for stroke and coronary heart disease mortality, but is strongly associated with obesity. Additional research also shows a 1 gram per day increase in salt intake increases with the risk of obesity by 28 percent in children and 26 percent in adults.

There are a few theories that imply too much sodium can make weight loss a challenge, including the following:

1. The High-Salt Food Sources
Starting with the more obvious… While sodium is virtually absent of calories, it is abundant in processed convenience foods such as chips, pizza, bread, among numerous others.

These sort of foods tend to be laden in calories without supplying much nutritional value, along with being easier to overeat.

2. Too Much Sodium is Linked to Diabetes
A high-sodium diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, which also increases the risk of diabetes according to the NHS. Not only is diabetes a major health concern, but make weight loss a challenge, especially in the presence of insulin resistance.

People who are insulin resistant do not efficiently use insulin, which is the hormone responsible for shuttling glucose into cells. The cells become quite desperate for fuel, which in turn causes them to send "I'm hungry!" signal to the brain and subsequently increases the risk of overeating.

Those with higher insulin levels also store fat more effectively, which leads to an increase in weight gain and additional health concerns.

3. Salty Diets Can Increase Hunger
While salt was previously thought to stimulate thirst, researchers have now discovered it can increase hunger. And unfortunately, this can further increase the risk of overeating.

Salt Calories & Recommendations

Again, sodium is devoid of calories. However, it is abundant in calorically-dense foods that are often over-consumed.

And while there are currently no sodium recommendations formulated to support weight loss, remember, the AHA recommends no more than 2,300 mg per day unless directed by your doctor.

But keeping sodium moderated helps reduce the risk of fluid retention and water weight in the short-term, along with obesity and other chronic diseases later down the road.

Tips for a Low-Salt Diet

If someone gives weight loss advice urging to cut salt out completely, take it with a grain of salt…

However, there is benefit from reducing the intake of salt for weight loss and overall health, including by limiting processed foods and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit Processed Foods

Limiting the intake of processed foods is one of the simplest ways to lower sodium in the diet.

In addition to a bag of chips, sleeve of crackers, and more obvious salty foods, sodium is commonly added and sourced in condiments such as ketchup and tomato, pasta, BBQ, and soy sauces. Also watch out for foods that are fermented, cured, smoked, or pickled, including sauerkraut, pickles, cheeses, and lunch meats.

Checking food labels can help consumers identify sodium content, particularly on packaged foods. These sodium claims are often found on food labels and guide food choices:

• Sodium-Free: Less than 5 mg per serving

• Salt-Free: Meets requirements for sodium-free

• Low-Sodium: 140 mg sodium or less per serving

• Very Low Sodium: 35 mg or less per serving

Additionally, check the mg of sodium per serving on the Nutrition Facts label to evaluate the product. Additional sodium descriptions include the following:

• Reduced Sodium: Contains at least 25 percent less sodium compared to the regular version of the product

• Light in Sodium: Contains 50 percent less sodium per serving compared to the amount of sodium in a regular version of the product

• Unsalted, Without Added Salt, and No Salt Added: No salt is used in the processing of the product, when the product would normally be processed with salt (such as unsalted pretzels versus regular pretzels); this does not entitle the product to be "sodium-free"

Nonetheless, checking the percent of the daily value (%DV) for sodium is a sound method to monitor sodium intake. If the %DV is 5 or less, the food is considered low in sodium. And if or when in doubt, take advantage of Nutrition Facts and Ingredients labels.

Increase Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Reducing packaged and processed products and purchasing more fruits and vegetables is one of the simplest ways to lower sodium in the diet. What’s more, their high fiber content offers cardioprotective properties.

It is important, though, to opt for fruits and veggies in their more natural form. For instance, some frozen varieties can be laden in salt.

As a general rule of thumb, consume 3 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruits daily. Including more potassium-rich produce, such as bananas and carrots, naturally reduce high blood pressure.

Eat More Nutrient-Rich Foods that are Low in Salt

In addition to increasing fresh fruits and veggies, go for other nutrient-rich foods that are low in salt.

Following the recommendations of the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) Diet can naturally reduce the consumption of salt. More detailed guidelines encouraging not only fruits and veggies, but whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy products, fish and poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Also reduce sodium and amplify flavor by swapping out the salt shaker with seasonings. Spicing it up in the kitchen amplifies flavor without a large need of sauces and condiments typically loaded with sodium, fat, and sugar. Lemon, lime, garlic, and onion also offers natural flavor to dishes, along with various vinegars including apple cider, rice, and red wine.

Choose Low-Sodium Meal Delivery

Low-sodium meal delivery is a convenient way to keep salt intake in check.

And unlike most frozen entrees, bistroMD's low-sodium, heart-healthy meal delivery aligns with the AHA recommendations, which fall at or below calories, sodium, total fat and saturated fat. Each meal contains 600 milligrams or less of sodium per meal, also falling below the DGAs and AHAs recommendation of 2,300 milligrams daily.

Every meal is doctor-designed and dietitian-approved and provides a scientific balance of complex carbohydrates, whole grains and fiber, along with lean protein and healthy fat ratios. The high-nutritional value keeps body processes running smoothly, lowers the risk of chronic diseases, keeps hunger at bay, and supports a healthy weight.

And by utilizing the freshest ingredients, chefs and nutrition experts craft flavorful meals without resorting to the salt shaker, even including pork tenderloin with mushroom marsala, tilapia with white wine sauce, and beef chipotle chili with corn pudding!

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on April 23, 2019.


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