While a certain amount of sodium is necessary for health, many people consume too much. Sodium may cause bloating as the body retains more water when a person consumes too much.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about
Consuming too much sodium can also
Read more to learn about the link between sodium and weight gain, as well as tips to reduce sodium consumption.
Sodium is vital for many of the body’s natural processes, such as managing nerve impulses and muscle contractions but consuming too much can make the body retain water. This can make a person feel puffy and bloated.
This shows that higher sodium diets can cause more bloating, regardless of what type of diet a person eats.
Although some research links higher sodium consumption to weight gain, it does not mean sodium causes weight gain. There are multiple reasons for this link.
First, sodium can cause the body to retain water. This water weight is temporary, and if a person consumes less sodium, their body will shed the excess fluid.
The body contains a lot of water, which can cause weight to fluctuate daily. The menstrual cycle and certain medications can further affect how a person’s body retains water.
Many processed foods have high sodium content, are low in fiber, and are high in calories. It is OK to eat these foods in moderation, but eating them regularly can cause weight gain.
An older 2014 Spanish study involving 418 participants explored the association between sodium and excess weight. The results showed links between elevated urinary sodium and high:
Participants with the highest sodium intake also consumed more calories, ate less healthy foods, and ate more snacks and other foods.
Although the weight gain may not directly result from sodium intake, the study concluded that because many less nutritious and processed foods contain high sodium levels, consuming them has associations with weight gain.
Other research has investigated whether sodium plays a role in weight gain independent of the foods that contain it.
The study concluded that excess sodium plays a role in weight gain but could not precisely identify how sodium causes weight gain or obesity.
Despite this, the average sodium intake of individuals in the United States is 3,400 mg per day.
Excess sodium can be detrimental to a person’s health in several ways.
Consuming too much sodium
Over time, high blood pressure stresses the walls of the blood vessels. It leads to an accumulation of plaque that can block blood flow.
High blood pressure is a
Other health effects of excess sodium intake
- heart failure
- kidney disease
- kidney stones
- enlarged heart muscle
Understanding how much sodium is present in food can help people make small changes to their diet that will have a significant positive effect on their health. The
Since packaged foods are high in sodium, even food that does not taste salty can contain large amounts. It is important to take care when grocery shopping.
Tips for grocery shopping include:
- choosing “no salt added” and “low sodium” canned foods
- reading food labels before buying
- comparing products, and selecting the lower sodium options
- buying fresh or flash-frozen meat instead of deli meat
Cooking at home
Although cooking at home takes some time and practice, home-cooked food is almost always lower in sodium and price. Low-sodium cooking tips include:
- reducing salt for flavoring by using spices, lemon juice, garlic, and salt-free seasonings
- adding more fruits and vegetables to meals
- using “plain” ingredients where possible (for example. plain couscous instead of flavored, plain frozen broccoli instead of broccoli with added flavor)
- avoiding sauces and packaged mixes for flavoring
- making salad dressing at home
Eating at restaurants
Restaurant food often contains more sodium than people use when cooking at home. While eating out is an integral part of a person’s social life, following some simple guidelines can help them keep their sodium intake in check when choosing meals at a restaurant.
Dining out tips include:
- asking for nutritional information before ordering
- asking the waiter or chef to put less salt in your food
- avoiding using the salt shaker on the table
- splitting a meal with a partner or friend
- eating out as a special treat, not a regular habit
Making small changes
Changing dietary habits is hard and adjusting to new eating patterns takes time. Try to make changes gradually, and do not be discouraged by slip-ups. Anyone who finds these changes particularly difficult might benefit from contacting a doctor or dietitian.
While these tips are a starting point, they are not comprehensive, and some people, including those who live in food deserts, may find them restrictive.
This basic meal plan may provide helpful guidance for people limited by budget, access, and time.
Although sodium can cause water retention, research has not proven that it causes weight gain. Processed, packaged, and restaurant foods often contain high sodium levels foods and eating too much of this type of food can cause weight gain.
However, most people in the U.S. consume too much sodium, which can be detrimental to health.
High sodium in the diet
People can reduce the sodium content in their diet by cooking at home, reading food labels, consuming less processed and packaged foods, and checking the sodium content in the meals they eat in restaurants.