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Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Consider Sodium

Have you ever changed your eating habits by eating only fresh natural protein, veges, salad and whole grains for a few weeks or a few months and then had a craving for something no quite as fresh and wholesome?

You go out to dinner for Thai or Indian and pick the healthy dish. You have a can of low fat vegetable soup or a breakfast bar. You might even have sushi or a "diet" dinner from a well known weight loss company.

The next day the scales are up.

Then later on that week you decide to have a really free meal and eat garlic bread and pizza, bacon and eggs, or fish and chips.

The next day the scales cause you to have a heart attack and make you throw in the towel completely. Obviously your metabolism is so screwed you can't ever have a treat for the rest of your life without gaining back weeks of hard fought losses. What's the point being skinny and MISERABLE.

This has happened to me. When I weighed in Sunday morning after my free day I was 64.4kg which is a gain of 2.5kg overnight.

It's not the fat, it's not the carbs, it's not the calories, dear friends - IT'S THE SALT!

When you eat unprocessed food you take the majority of the sodium out of your diet. You drink lots of water and you pee a lot. Then as soon as you eat something laden with salt your body sucks up water like a sponge and shows a huge gain.

If you don't believe me, activate the sodium column in Calorie King and have a look at a whole foods day compared to a day when you ate pre-packaged food. Or read the sodium count on the labels on your food.

The recommended daily intake is around 2g which is 2000mg. A can of soup can have around 1200mg of sodium in one hit. Things from nature have very little sodium at all. If you can keep your sodium well under 2000mg a day, the scales will move downwards fairly rapidly.

Beware of everything processed including cottage cheese, milk, bread, yogurt. meal replacement shakes, canned tomatoes and DIET COKE. Even things that have only 2 calories have salt in them - a 600ml bottle of Diet Coke has 90mg of salt which is not so bad but adds up quickly when you drink a few in a day. I think Coke Zero is even worse.

It makes you wonder if when people start losing weight after giving up dairy or wheat or artificial sweetener if it is just a result of cutting back on the sodium? It may explain that huge loss on the first week of any diet.

Now I know we are talking about water weight and not fat, but water makes you bigger, makes your jeans tight and your fingers puffy. If you prefer not to feel bloated and waterlogged sodium might be the key. If you are like me and suffer ovulation or PMT bloating, watching the salt is particularly important.


  1. Thanks! Very informative-I was wondering recently about how much salt is too much!

  2. AVOID DIET COKE.... are you completely MAD??? *shaking head* perish the thought.

  3. Anonymous1:30 pm

    Well said. Plus a low sodium diet will help to fight heart disease and keep you out of the cardiology unit. On day one in CCU, we nasty nurses take the salt off everyone and they never get it back.

  4. Not to mention blood pressure. I heard an interesting podcast a while back that discussed some reputable studies which have shown that 95% of high blood pressure cases are entirely due to too much sodium consumed over decades. There's also a conspiracy theory revolving around the salt industry and big bucks for government. Of course.

    I wouldn't lump milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese in with bread, takeaways and packaged meals though, just on the basis of their salt content. There's a lot of good stuff you'd miss out on if you avoided them. A bit of salt in your dairy is a trade-off for the calcium and a little extra protein - and the great bacteria in yoghurt - in my book.

  5. Bobby8:37 am

    I'm not convinced about the salt/water retention link. Ok, there is some of course, but there is also a sugar/water retention link as well. Not forgetting the dry food/water retention link.

    I've certainly experienced the fish and chips weight gain effect. I eat say 500g of chips. A few hours later I am quite thirsty. I have a feeling that the water value in food inside the digestive system is quite high. Potatoes are dry, hence the thirst and subsequent weight gain.

  6. thats how my body works too. If i eat food high in salt i get really bloated but i find that i just up the water iuntake the next day or so and then it disappears.

  7. I don't worry about salt much Kate, the thing is with salt you need to be consistent.

    Now granted I don't eat heaps of processed foods but I add plenty of salt, salt is important, your body needs it so I think it is silly to try and avoid it as much as you can, ESPECIALLY if you exercise a lot.

    Now with salt retention, granted their are some people that can have issues medically causing difficulties with how their body handles salt but generally your body really only retains lots of water from salt if you SUDDENLY eat lots of it.

    Think of it the same way as water balance, when you don't drink much fluids your body retains it when there is ample it doesn't, same with salt. Bodybuilders use this tidbit to manipulate their water balance just before the competition to give them a dry look.

    Heck it is even the same with carbs (bb'ers use this trick too), when you don't eat many carbs and then suddenly you do, your muscles actually soak up more carbohydrates and water then they would normally giving your muscles a much more fuller/pumped appearance.