Beat the Bloat: Sodium 101

You know sodium best as table salt, but salt and sodium are hidden in all kinds of products, including processed foods, frozen and canned foods, fast foods, condiments, and more. You've probably heard that excess sodium can raise your blood pressure, but you may not realize it has negative effects on weight loss too.

When you eat something salty, any excess sodium is deposited just beneath the skin, where it attracts water, which is retained by your cells. Not only can this leave you feeling puffy and bloated, but it can hamper your ability to lose weight. Your body needs a steady flow of water in and out to effectively metabolize fat, and if the water gets dammed up in your cells, your ability to burn fat slows.

Now, don't make yourself crazy over sodium intake, because there is sodium in everything — you can't avoid it completely. And you wouldn't want to — sodium plays an important role in the body, and we need it to survive. Just be conscious of how much you're eating, and minimize it where you can. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Read labels to check the sodium content of the foods you're eating. I recommend that you aim for around 1,000 milligrams a day to maximize your body's fat-burning potential and lower your blood pressure; 1,500 mg a day, however, is probably more realistic.
  • Replace processed foods with fresh foods.
  • Avoid packaged and canned foods.
  • Be wary of sodium-laden condiments (soy sauce, mustard, table salt).
  • Cut down on processed meats (hot dogs, jerky, bologna, corned beef).
  • Use miso and canned or smoked seafood with caution.
  • Steer clear of anything pickled (including capers, sauerkraut, and relish).
  • Consider salt-free flavoring alternatives, like garlic, lemon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and spices.

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