Sodium. We all know about it and we’ve all heard we eat too much of it; but what, really, is sodium? And why does it matter if we eat too much of it? Well, for one, sodium, plain and simple, is necessary for the body to function to properly. It plays a vital role in water balance, nerve function, and a whole array of various physiological functions that are of the utmost significance to our health. That said, we really only need a small amount—500 mg, in fact. To put that into perspective, you can get your daily amount of sodium from a serving of chips, crackers, canned food items, pickles, cheeses, pretzels, or even salted nuts. Even condiments like ketchup and salad dressings are packed to the brim with sodium.
Considering we get our daily intake from something as simple as a bag of pretzels, it is easy to see how so many Americans are consuming far too much sodium (like 4 to 5k on a daily basis); and we only need 500mg! Even being conservative, that means the majority of American adults are processing 8 times more sodium than they should be. Even the American Medical Association is speaking up and is trying to persuade the FDA to revoke their categorization of salt as a supposedly ‘safe’ additive. You can see why.
What’s really intriguing about all of this is the fact that salt is actually an incredibly addictive substance. So it makes sense that big food manufacturers would pump the stuff into their products. They want you to keep coming back. They don’t care about your expanding waistline, only their expanding pocketbook. To show you what I mean, there has been clinical research conducted that illustrates the fact that salt actually shares many of the same attributes of addictive substances (i.e. morphine, cocaine, and heroin). When we ingest these addictive substances, our brains release hormones that we perceive as pleasurable sensations. Thus, we keep coming back for more.
Additionally, a Finnish study that was published in 2006 concluded that there is a clear-cut link correlation salt intake and obesity. From the 1980s to the mid-1990s, Americans’ salt intake increased tremendously by more than 50%. Here’s why this fact really is such terrible news: a diet that with too much sodium is the leading cause of high blood pressure, which in turn leads to heart disease and stroke (which, shocker, are two diseases that go hand-in-hand with obesity).
When a man or woman has a high blood pressure reading of 140/85, their blood begins coagulating into a sort of salty sludge. Then, in reaction, their body will start dumping extra water into their bloodstream which results in the expansion of blood vessels—indicating any number of potentially fatal problems. Well, now that I’ve established too much sodium is awful for you, here’s what you can do to mitigate the effects:
-Consumer fewer processed foods
-Choose fresh or frozen veggies, not canned
-Purchase fresh meats, not canned, cured or smoked
-Ask about unsalted meals at restaurants
-Opt for low sodium versions of soups and snacks
-Choose foods that don’t list salt or sodium in the first five ingredients
-Use a salt-free herbal blend instead of a traditional salt shaker
Good luck, Godspeed, and stay healthy! Cheers!