Sodium

This is something I had no clue about when I typed up my “Physical fitness” blog post, but I think that was a blessing in disguise because now I can devote an entire post to this topic alone. I think this is important information that uninformed people NEED to know about.

Salt (or sodium) is added to processed food to preserve it (to keep it lasting longer than it usually would); it also makes some foods taste better. The amount of salt you consume can have an effect on health. Once I figured out that I was eating around 7,000 mg of sodium a day (and then cut it down to 2,000 mg or less), I noticed some changes in my body and my health:

No more bloated stomach (sodium attracts and holds water),
Able to breathe easier and fuller has improved,
No stuffed-up sinuses when I go to bed at night,
Less trouble pressing weights up over my head,
Not running out of breath as quickly during intense physical exercise,
I see the results from weight training in a shorter span of time,
I am more flexible, able to stretch without any problems, and move faster.

I had a whole host of problems while consuming almost 3 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA), and if you’re finding some similarities in your own health problems, you may want to review your sodium intake. I’ve seen numbers ranging from 2,000-3,000 mg as the RDA of sodium. How do you calculate the amount of sodium you consume? By reading the nutrition labels on the food containers and packages, and adding up the amounts of sodium (according to portion size) in the food that you’re eating. If you eat the majority of your food at restaurants or hot dog stands, you should probably stop, because there’s salt added to a lot of the food served in the restaurant industry. I gave up eating black forest ham and honey ham because there’s about 850 mg of sodium in 100 grams of honey ham and around 1000 mg in 100 grams of black forest ham. Hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, beans, soups, breads, some cereals, most condiments (ketchup, mustard, relish, for example), junk food & some candy are all sodium-rich. Is it any wonder that there was an obesity epidemic in 2004? A lot of people MAY have attempted exercise to combat this, but with high sodium preventing their fitness level from increasing, their attempts were in vain.

It is my opinion that a high sodium diet can prevent gains in muscle mass. My theory stems from the following: I could not breathe deeply on a high sodium diet; there was some sort of pressure in my chest preventing me from inhaling past a certain point. If oxygen cannot get into the working muscles, then the muscles cannot function to their fullest, and therefore, not recover from the intense training placed upon them. However, I have no proof to back this claim up except for the changes I’m seeing in my own body. I believe that if you want to gain muscle (or simply get into shape), you have to start watching your sodium intake AS WELL AS your protein, carb, and fat intake; no one said this was going to be easy! But what would you rather do: take some magical weight-loss pill and (hopefully) lose the weight, or train, eat, read, and experiment to lose the weight? I myself would rather have a story to tell rather than a simple, “Here, take this pill and all your problems will be solved” statement. But in this day and age of ‘I want it fast and I want it now’, how many people will spout the line instead of researching the facts?

Why is there so much sodium in most of the foods that we buy from the store? Why can’t we enjoy tasty foods without any threat to our health? I loved eating hot dogs, but now I fear I can no longer have them because of the high sodium content. Most fruits have flavour, but once in awhile, to cut loose, you should be able to have a slice of chocolate cake or a candy bar, right? Moderation is the key, but can’t we do better than this as human beings? Can food taste unbelievably good AND be nutritious at the same time?

There are hundreds of ads out there telling people to eat good food and exercise daily. They got the second part right (but need to go into detail as to what kind of exercise should be done), while the first part is very vague and needs to be explained in greater detail. Portion size is finally being introduced as a new, important topic. They’ve figured out the different kinds of fat (good fat, bad fat, trans fat) and the “Low carb revolution” has come and gone…but what about sodium? When will the ‘low sodium craze’ begin? WILL it begin at all? Can people balance all these topics and continue to gain information on them without breaking down in total confusion (thus leading to the abandonment of the entire issue)?

Your kidneys regulate the amount of sodium kept in your body. When sodium levels are low, your kidneys conserve sodium. When levels are high, they excrete the excess amount in urine.
If your kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume, in turn, makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, increasing pressure in your arteries. Certain diseases such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can lead to an inability to regulate sodium.
(Taken from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284)

Is it possible that some of the people who are dying from heart attacks or have very high blood pressure are unaware that the food they’re eating may be the primary cause? How do you think they would react if they were told that they couldn’t eat their favourite foods anymore because it was killing them? Most likely, they don’t know anything about salt or sodium; is that their fault? Could there be someone out there to inform them? (For instance, THEIR DOCTOR?) But even if these people knew, would they care to do anything about it? I’ve heard many people talk about how McDonalds food is bad for you, but every time I pass by one of those places, it’s got quite a few people in it. Are people disregarding their health simply for taste and convenience?

The choice will always be yours. I have nothing to gain from doling out this information. If you want to live a healthy life, look good, and feel good, start doing the research. A healthy body is created from a healthy mind, and each needs the other to sustain itself.

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  1. #1 by Mel on June 24, 2007 - 8:38 pm

    Yeah, my mom had a major blood pressure problem when I was in elementary school and my family cut our sodium intake drastically. Mom dropped 13 lbs in a week (just from retained water)
     
    One big culprit in the sodium department is breakfast cereal, believe it or not.

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