Sodium is essential in small amounts to maintain good health; however, most of us consume far more than what our body needs. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains contain tiny quantities of naturally occurring sodium. In stark contrast, all processed foods are packed with sodium – cookies, wafers, chips, pizzas, burgers, packaged cereals and salted meat. Research shows that processed foods comprise of 75% of our daily sodium intake! Sodium is necessary in the diet; but, too much sodium has an adverse effect on our body.
The strong connection between sodium and hypertension is known to all. The main problem with eating too much of sodium-packed food, is that it causes the body to retain water and increase the blood pressure. Consequently, the heart has to work harder and this harms the blood vessels, causing hypertension and possibly even a stroke.
5 reasons to opt for a low sodium diet
- Protects the heart: Adhering to a low sodium diet helps keep your blood pressure normal. As a result, it also lowers the risk of developing heart attack. By managing hypertension, you relieve potential damage to your heart. It is also important to understand that hypertension is one of the factors in a metabolic syndrome – meaning, when the blood pressure rises, you also have a tendency to develop high cholesterol. Thus, a low sodium diet keeps your heart happy and functioning optimally.
- Prevents kidney damage: High sodium diet and hypertension cause an impairment of the blood vessels in the kidneys. This can cause kidney failure.
- Reduce risk of diabetes: Consuming too much of packaged foods and convenience foods increases your risk of developing diabetes mellitus. Conversely, following a low-sodium diet reduces the oscillations in the blood sugar.
- Checks bloating: Excessive amounts of sodium cause the body to retain fluid. When you switch to a low salt diet, you will immediately notice reduced bloating and swelling. This is especially true for women around pre-menstrual time.
- Decreases the tendency for headaches: A meal high in salt raises blood pressure; and the pounding blood vessels can set off a painful headache.
4 fool-proof tips to reduce excessive sodium in your diet
- Boost the flavours in your dishes:There are a multitude of creative and flavourful alternatives to make your dishes exciting! Up the flavour profile of your recipe by using herbs, spices and a splash of healthy oil or fat. Opt for flavoursome herbs, infused oils and vinegar, and nuts. These help augment the natural flavour of food.
- Avoid packaged food: Packaged food such as salty snacks, chips, biscuits, farsan, etc. contain high amount of sodium as it enhances the taste and acts as a preservative as well. Skipping these will help you reduce sodium in your diet. Try making them at home if you crave an occasional indulgence.
- Go for low sodium salts: Switch to low sodium salt. Tata Salt Lite is a low sodium salt that is designed to provide 15% lesser sodium than ordinary salt.
- Stay hydrated: Drink adequate amounts of water and keep your body well hydrated. When you are thirsty, especially after a working out or after an illness, try a glass of water with lime. Usually, you find that once the thirst is quenched, you no longer crave sodium filled foods.
Be aware of portion sizes
A well advocated method of staying healthy is practicing portion control. This can help you lose weight as well as eat healthy during the times when you tend to put on weight. Increased portion sizes are known contribute to overeating and unwanted weight gain. Switch to using smaller plates or glasses; this can help you lower the amount of food and drinks that you consume. This will also allow you to indulge while being careful about how much you have eaten. During each meal, fill half of your plate with colorful food items such as salads and fruits. Jotting down your total calorie intake can also help you increase awareness of what you consume. This can motivate you to make healthier choices and reduce your chances of overeating.
It will need a dedicated effect on your part to embark upon a low sodium diet. A deciding factor in being able to thwart your craving for salty foods is to slowly but surely, little by little reduce the excessive sodium in your diet. In due course, you will be able to enjoy the more subtle flavours in your diet.
- Institute of Medicine, 2004, Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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