I can always tell when I’ve had too much sodium because my rings fit very snugly on my fingers. You may not be as sensitive to salt as I am, but did you know that 9 out of 10 Americans eat too much sodium?
Even if you don’t feel bloated with water weight after eating a salty meal (lucky you!) that doesn’t mean you should salt your food. (And if you do feel bloated after a salty meal, below are some tips to reduce water retention.)
Salt is essential for the human body to survive — it prevents muscle spasms and is necessary for nerve impulses. But eating too much salt can raise blood pressure and make your bones brittle, possibly leading to osteoporosis.
Even if you’re not salting your food, sodium is found in many packaged products you might consume like bread, lunch meat, canned foods, frozen foods, salad dressings and more. Much of the chicken you buy in the grocery store has been “synthetically saturated with a mix of water, salt, and other additives via needle injections and high-pressure vacuum tumbling,” writes Registered Dietitian Janet Helm for an article in Cooking Light. So keep that in mind before adding salt to a dish!
The Centers for Disease Control recommend healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day (the equivalent of about a teaspoon), with 1,500 milligrams daily being the ideal target. Although numerous health websites, including the CDC, mention that the daily intake for some individuals could be as low as 180-500 milligrams per day. So talk to your doctor if you’re unsure.
So, how do you know if you’re sodium sensitive? Here are some signs:
- You get very thirsty after a meal.
- You weigh significantly more the day after eating a salty meal.
- Your fingers and/or ankles swell slightly after eating a salty meal.
Ways to lower sodium:
- Read labels and buy products that are marked “reduced sodium” or “low sodium.” (Reduced sodium means the sodium is lowered by at least 75% of the original product. Low sodium means the product contains less than 140 mg of sodium per serving).
- Use herbs and lemon juice to season your food instead of salt.
- Rinse canned foods, like garbanzo beans, to help reduce the sodium a bit.
- Don’t salt the water when you boil pasta, quinoa or rice. Who can really taste the salt anyway?
- Cook at home. Use as many fresh and non-packaged ingredients as possible so you know exactly what’s going into your food.
Ways to beat water retention:
- Eat potassium-rich foods. Potassium balances the sodium in the body.
- Drink water. Although this sounds counter-intuitive, drinking water will help flush out the excess water that’s making you bloated.
- Sweat it out. Go for a run or take a class at the gym to rid your body of excess water weight.
I’ve drank caffeinated beverages to reduce water retention because caffeine is a diuretic. However, caffeine will dehydrate your body, plus it is only a temporary solution to water retention, so follow the tips above before turning to coffee.
What do you do to reduce water retention? Do you avoid eating sodium-rich foods?