You’re a compulsive calorie counter (which can be a good thing!) You know everything there is about carb intake, fat burning and how much protein you should be digesting daily. So why haven’t you lost more weight by now? The truth is, one of the most important factors to your weight loss, and the success of long term weight loss, amounts to a four letter word – salt. Are you getting enough or consuming too much? Here’s what you need to know in order to enhance your weight loss efforts and decrease your body fat. It’s that simple!

The Rules of Salt Moderation

The first rule of thumb is that sodium is necessary for your body – just not too much or two little of it. If you’re not getting any sodium – zero – you wouldn’t survive. If you’re getting too much sodium, you’re retaining water, which can lead to a tip of the scale, and possibly jeopardize your weight loss efforts.

To be safe, go by the sodium intake that the American Heart Association recommends by allowing yourself no more than 1,500 mg daily. Have you checked the sodium level on those frozen food items in your fridge? Pay attention, because items that may be low in calories, make up for it in carbs and sodium. A daily serving of sodium could be found in just one frozen food or processed food snack, so beware.

From Your Workout to the Pantry…Pay Attention to Your Salt Intake!

Salt, which made of sodium (just in a granulated form) retains water. It can often be the main culprit when it comes to weight gain, and can cause serious levels of dehydration. When your sodium levels are high and you’re working hard to lessen your waistline, salt will stop water from doing its job effectively. So, instead of working with your metabolism to burn calories and fat effectively, it actually will work against it – and all your hard work at the gym will act like a pointless waste of time and energy.

Help your body, and make your workouts and good eating habits out!  If you just had an epiphany that your eating habits of chock full of salt – and way too much of it – rest easy, rewind and renew your body with these helpful hints for a sodium-healthy diet:

  • Throw out the chips, cookies and crackers. Processed foods are always full of sodium. After all, how else could they stay fresh without artificial ingredients, and salt? It may take some getting used to, but once you toss processed foods for fresh, natural ones, you’ll realize that you never felt better – in both body and mind.
  • Eliminate salted nuts, for raw nuts. Salted nuts that are prepackaged are not good for you – at all. Instead, keep raw almonds or unsalted peanuts at home to snack on.
  • If you’re addicted to salt, ease off of it slowly. Excessive salt can be addictive. If you’re used to sprinkling it on top of salads, scrambled eggs or pasta, try switching to a light salt, or adding your favorite spice in substitute of salt. With a gradual change, it won’t feel as drastic and life altering.

Does Your Salt Intake Affect Weight Loss?

High Sodium Risks

You should not consume high amounts of sodium since it can lead to health conditions such as high blood pressure. According to the U.S dietary guidelines, one should consume at most 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Other risks that are associated with consuming high amounts of sodium include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Damaged blood vessels

Tips for Reducing Sodium

Lowering sodium intake can be a challenge, especially if you’re used to eating more than the daily recommended serving. But it’s possible with the following measures:

  • Eat whole foods prepared at home since processed foods usually contain high amounts of sodium.
  • Avoid consuming condiments that contain high amounts of sodium, such as soy sauce, salad dressing, and ketchup.
  • Use dry herbs such as black pepper to season your food.
  • Rinse canned foods before consuming them.
  • Read the labels on canned foods to know the amount of sodium contained in these foods.

Low-Sodium Foods to Enjoy

  • Beans and other grains
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Frozen or fresh fish
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes
  • Frozen or fresh meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Low-sodium snacks
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Low-sodium homemade soups
  • Baked goods such as bread and unsalted crackers

High-Sodium Foods to Avoid

  • Processed meat
  • Fast foods such as burgers
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Salty snacks and canned foods
  • Cheese
  • Baking mixes
  • Salty canned soups
  • Salted baked foods such as croutons and salted rolls

Benefits of a Low-Sodium Diet

  • Lowers blood pressure – Without as much fluid in your blood, your blood pressure will start to fall to normal levels.
  • Decreases the risk of cancer – Stomach cancer can be attributed to the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, which thrives off of salt.
  • Can indirectly help improve the quality of foods you eat – Many high-salt content foods are also poor in nutritional value, so cutting down on salt also often means cutting down on junk food.
  • Reduces the risk of kidney damage – Kidney failure can come from weakened blood vessels that have been damaged by excessive salt consumption.
  • Decreases bloating and swelling – Salt makes you retain fluid, so you’ll notice a big difference in swelling once you cut back.

Other Ways to Control Your Blood Pressure and Improve Health

Your diet should be the first focus when lowering sodium intake, but there are other ways to control your blood pressure and improve your overall well-being. On top of consuming less salt, you can also:

  • Become more physically active
  • Consume fewer calories
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Limit your alcohol intake

Salt. It can be a blessing, or a curse for your weight loss. Start by being mindful of how much salt you’re digesting daily, ease off slowly and develop some creative solutions for your eating habits. As a result, you’ll also develop a slimmer body, and toned core!