Sodium struggle

I am new to this health kick and I have noticed that I take in a lot of sodium on a daily basis but it seems to be hard not to. I will basically cut out a lot of my foods, than what is left?
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Replies

  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 30,358 Member
    Do you have a health condition that requires you to limit sodium, such as high blood pressure? If not, there may be no reason to make reducing it an urgent priority.

    If you'd like to reduce it, despite it maybe not being urgent, you can chip away at that gradually, over time. Use your food diary, notice things that have lots of sodium that aren't that important to you, reduce those, replace with something you enjoy eating that has less/no sodium. Rinse and repeat, eventually you'll be eating less sodium.

    Mostly, it'll probably be prepared foods, "food products", that are higher in sodium. Still, it can vary by person. A lot of mine comes from things like raw sauerkraut, kim chi, pickles, etc.

    I eat more than MFP's default sodium goal, don't have relevant health conditions, don't really worry about it. YMMV.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,584 Member
    edited May 2022
    Also wondering if you have a relevant health condition, or if your question is prompted by the app nagging you.

    My ex lived in Thailand for three years, took in tons of sodium from the ubiquitous fish, soy, and oyster sauces, and lost 40 pounds without trying to lose weight.
  • mbinaz2019
    mbinaz2019 Posts: 20 Member
    If you just want to cut back on sodium, start with your salt shaker. Taste your food before you put salt on it. Most processed/convenience foods are high in sodium, so try cutting back on how often you eat them. Read nutrition labels to look for sodium, it's in most foods. So look for products with lower sodium.

    Restaurant foods also have a lot of sodium. I can gain 3 pounds of water weight overnight from eating at a restaurant. I'm so used to eating lower sodium that I don't even like many of my old restaurant favorites because they're too salty.

    If you're cooking from a recipe, note that many are over-salted. Try using less than the recipe calls for. You can salt the food later if it needs it. Look for lower dodium versions of ingredients.

    You can use less salt without losing flavor, there are some Dash (used to be called Mrs. Dash) seasonings that have no sodium.

    I've been eating low sodium for many years, it's doable.

  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 924 Member
    Salt is only bad if you have a condition that makes salt bad for you.

    Now, an enormous proportion of the population has some kind of condition that makes salt bad for them, that's why so many people need to cut salt.

    But if you are one who doesn't have those conditions, then why would you feel the need to cut salt?

    I personally take 9-10 grams of salt pills a day for better health (Prescribed by a neurologist. This isn't some BS woo thing, some of us benefit immensely from large doses of salt).
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,584 Member
    Xellercin wrote: »
    Salt is only bad if you have a condition that makes salt bad for you.

    Now, an enormous proportion of the population has some kind of condition that makes salt bad for them, that's why so many people need to cut salt.

    But if you are one who doesn't have those conditions, then why would you feel the need to cut salt?

    I personally take 9-10 grams of salt pills a day for better health (Prescribed by a neurologist. This isn't some BS woo thing, some of us benefit immensely from large doses of salt).

    @Xellercin I'm under a lot of stress these days and one of the ways I self-soothe is eating chunky salt (with peanuts, chocolate chips, and currants.)

    Now I'm thinking I should stop feeling guilty about this. Thoughts?
  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 924 Member
    edited May 2022
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    Xellercin wrote: »
    Salt is only bad if you have a condition that makes salt bad for you.

    Now, an enormous proportion of the population has some kind of condition that makes salt bad for them, that's why so many people need to cut salt.

    But if you are one who doesn't have those conditions, then why would you feel the need to cut salt?

    I personally take 9-10 grams of salt pills a day for better health (Prescribed by a neurologist. This isn't some BS woo thing, some of us benefit immensely from large doses of salt).

    @Xellercin I'm under a lot of stress these days and one of the ways I self-soothe is eating chunky salt (with peanuts, chocolate chips, and currants.)

    Now I'm thinking I should stop feeling guilty about this. Thoughts?

    It all depends on your overall health.

    I used to crave salty snacks like crazy, and it turned out that I was actually self medicating because I literally needed more salt to combat exhaustion thanks to my condition.

    I'm not saying this is your case, but it is possible.

    The reason salt is so vilified is because SOOOOO many people have health issues that require salt reduction. So it's a general public health message to moderate salt because most people get several times more than they need, and for most of those people, it's dangerous, because we live in a world where the overwhelming, vast majority of people are horribly unhealthy.

    So yes, if you are perfectly healthy, more salt is probably totally benign. There's a rare chance that you're like me and actually need more salt.

    I certainly can't tell you over the internet whether or not your salt habit is safe or not. But you can do your own research and talk to your MD as to which health states are negatively impacted by salt, and decide if your habit increases any of your personal risks.
  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 5,730 Member
    Even for people with high blood pressure, avoiding sodium isn't 'per se' necessary either, some people are more sensitive to sodium than others.

    I am one of those people who can't do low sodium - I have low blood pressure and I feel dizzy/black out when I stand up if I'm not eating enough salt. I've always had more salty cravings than sugary cravings, I've always wondered if my body was trying to send me a message!
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,853 Member
    osbunphil wrote: »
    I am new to this health kick and I have noticed that I take in a lot of sodium on a daily basis but it seems to be hard not to. I will basically cut out a lot of my foods, than what is left?

    Also wondering if you have health reasons for reducing sodium? Also remember that sodium is a necessary electrolyte. Too low can be just as bad as too much. At any rate, more whole foods/minimally processed foods and home cooking using scratch and/or minimally processed ingredients...less eating out.

    Most highly processed foods are high in sodium as it acts not only as a flavor enhancer but also extends shelf life. Restaurant foods are also notoriously high in sodium.
  • 33gail33
    33gail33 Posts: 1,155 Member
    edited June 2022
    Idk why everyone jumps on the "do you have a health reason?" bandwagon whenever someone wants to decrease salt/sodium. Both the CDC and FDA have indicated that most Americans eat too much of it and I believe they actually lowered the recommended guidelines last year. To me lowering sodium intake seems like a perfectly reasonable goal for most people. Is there something I am not getting about this?

    As to the question - eating more whole foods and less processed, canned and packaged foods is the best way - they are loaded with sodium. It is hard if you are used to consuming those kind of foods on a regular basis. I make my own salad dressing, use salt free broths for cooking, try to use fresh ingredients over canned, and rely more on other spices for seasoning. You kind of have to retrain your taste buds though if you are used to a lot of salt. I figure by making those changes at home I don't have to worry about the odd time I get take out or eat in a restaurant.
  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 924 Member
    33gail33 wrote: »
    Idk why everyone jumps on the "do you have a health reason?" bandwagon whenever someone wants to decrease salt/sodium. Both the CDC and FDA have indicated that most Americans eat too much of it and I believe they actually lowered the recommended guidelines last year. To me lowering sodium intake seems like a perfectly reasonable goal for most people. Is there something I am not getting about this?

    As to the question - eating more whole foods and less processed, canned and packaged foods is the best way - they are loaded with sodium. It is hard if you are used to consuming those kind of foods on a regular basis. I make my own salad dressing, use salt free broths for cooking, try to use fresh ingredients over canned, and rely more on other spices for seasoning. You kind of have to retrain your taste buds though if you are used to a lot of salt. I figure by making those changes at home I don't have to worry about the odd time I get take out or eat in a restaurant.

    It's fine if someone reduces their salt intake, but when they are stressing about it and finding it difficult, the most logical question is "well, do you really have to?"

    It would be like if someone were struggling with taking up running. Sure, tons and tons of research shows that there are huge benefits to running, but that doesn't mean that any given individual needs to push themselves to run if they are struggling to do so.

    If the person said "hey, I lowered my salt intake and I find I really enjoy my food more, and I'm finding it easier to get great nutrition because I'm avoiding ultra-processed foods, and it's motivating me to eat more whole foods" I would be like "Hey, that's a great outcome! Good for you!"

    But that's not what OP is saying.

    Basically, we all need more info in order to give the best advice.

    There's a difference between advocating for people to better understand their own health needs vs advocating that people eat more salt. I personally eat very little salt because my spouse hates salty food and I cook everything from scratch. I get my salt mostly in pill form. So my comments don't come from an attitude of promoting salty food, they come from a place of encouraging people to actually learn their own body's needs.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,853 Member
    edited June 2022
    33gail33 wrote: »
    Idk why everyone jumps on the "do you have a health reason?" bandwagon whenever someone wants to decrease salt/sodium. Both the CDC and FDA have indicated that most Americans eat too much of it and I believe they actually lowered the recommended guidelines last year. To me lowering sodium intake seems like a perfectly reasonable goal for most people. Is there something I am not getting about this?

    As to the question - eating more whole foods and less processed, canned and packaged foods is the best way - they are loaded with sodium. It is hard if you are used to consuming those kind of foods on a regular basis. I make my own salad dressing, use salt free broths for cooking, try to use fresh ingredients over canned, and rely more on other spices for seasoning. You kind of have to retrain your taste buds though if you are used to a lot of salt. I figure by making those changes at home I don't have to worry about the odd time I get take out or eat in a restaurant.

    I come at this from the perspective of someone coming here and being new and trying to do all of the things all at once instead of focusing on what is most important and sorting out the rest as they go along and learn. If there is a medical urgency to reduce sodium, then yes...it would need to go to the top of the list...if not, it can be sorted out later. People get lost in this stuff because they're trying to do so much all at once that they can't see the forest through the trees and they just give up altogether.

    A lot of people also go overboard cutting sodium to the point where it's unhealthy. It's an essential electrolyte. As someone who has to medically watch my sodium, it's a balancing act. I initially cut way to low and my muscles were cramping all of the time because I'm an active person who lives in the desert where it's very hot and sweaty so I lose a lot of sodium in my sweat. I have to take in more sodium than a non-active hypertensive person living in a more temperate climate...just like I have to drink more fluids to stay hydrated than a non-active person living in a more temperate climate.
  • 33gail33
    33gail33 Posts: 1,155 Member
    edited June 2022
    @cwolfman13 @Xellercin

    I guess I look at it differently. Sodium intake is a long term problem, issues can show up years later. So telling someone they don't need to moderate their intake unless they have a health issue to me it is kind of like saying if someone doesn't have lung cancer yet then we shouldn't advise them to give up smoking.

    I just think that given this is a calorie counting/weight loss forum the chances that someone here would be in the **90-99% of those who get too much sodium is much greater than them being an outlier in the 1-10% that gets under the recommended amount. If you are changing your diet anyway then why not make it as healthy as possible.

    It seemed to me that they were looking for information and advice. Personally I think "don't worry about it" for someone who is regularly exceeding the recommended amount seems like the wrong advice.

    (**depending on the source)
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,853 Member
    edited June 2022
    33gail33 wrote: »
    @cwolfman13 @Xellercin

    I guess I look at it differently. Sodium intake is a long term problem, issues can show up years later. So telling someone they don't need to moderate their intake unless they have a health issue to me it is kind of like saying if someone doesn't have lung cancer yet then we shouldn't advise them to give up smoking.

    I just think that given this is a calorie counting/weight loss forum the chances that someone here would be in the **90-99% of those who get too much sodium is much greater than them being an outlier in the 1-10% that gets under the recommended amount. If you are changing your diet anyway then why not make it as healthy as possible.

    It seemed to me that they were looking for information and advice. Personally I think "don't worry about it" for someone who is regularly exceeding the recommended amount seems like the wrong advice.

    (**depending on the source)

    I didn't see anyone say "don't worry about it"...I certainly didn't. Overhauling one's diet is usually not a flip of the switch kind of thing. People who do it successfully long term make incremental changes as they move along. In that regard, prioritize what is most important first. Sodium is also not usually the root cause of people's issues which ultimately require them medically to watch their sodium intake...these are generally complications from obesity and living a sedentary lifestyle causing diseases for which sodium needs to be monitored. Kind of like carbohydrates don't cause diabetes, but once you have diabetes you have to watch your carbohydrates.

    When I started I put my focus on overall eating healthier which meant more whole foods and cooking at home and less eating out and less processed food goods. I didn't really make an inherent effort to lower my sodium, it just happened in the process of eating healthier. My Dr. wanted me to reduce sodium, but first and foremost he just wanted me to lose weight and be more active as even 10 Lbs lost drastically improved my blood work and hypertension. That was priority one...sodium reduction was a little down the line, but as it happened when I started eating better sodium was naturally reduced.
  • Xerogs
    Xerogs Posts: 328 Member
    Ultra processed foods contain a lot of sodium so its worth cutting back or eliminating those. Also keep an eye on soft drinks they contain a lot of sodium and added sugar. In February I had elevated blood pressure and what helped me reduce it was losing weight and switching to LCHF diet. I've actually had to add in salt because the foods I eat don't contain as much as the junk food. I was tracking my BP through this process and as of last week it was normal. I decided not to go on BP meds in Feb and work on my blood pressure with diet and exercise. I had the support of my PCP so make sure whatever you do to consult with your doctor.

    Dr. Cywes has a good explanation in regards to Blood Pressure & Salt.

  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 30,358 Member
    33gail33 wrote: »
    Idk why everyone jumps on the "do you have a health reason?" bandwagon whenever someone wants to decrease salt/sodium. Both the CDC and FDA have indicated that most Americans eat too much of it and I believe they actually lowered the recommended guidelines last year. To me lowering sodium intake seems like a perfectly reasonable goal for most people. Is there something I am not getting about this?

    As to the question - eating more whole foods and less processed, canned and packaged foods is the best way - they are loaded with sodium. It is hard if you are used to consuming those kind of foods on a regular basis. I make my own salad dressing, use salt free broths for cooking, try to use fresh ingredients over canned, and rely more on other spices for seasoning. You kind of have to retrain your taste buds though if you are used to a lot of salt. I figure by making those changes at home I don't have to worry about the odd time I get take out or eat in a restaurant.

    Literally the first reply on the thread (mine) says "Do you have a relevant condition, if no, then it may not be an urgent priority; but if you still want to reduce sodium despite no urgency, it's OK to chip away at it, here's an approach you can use".

    This is not exactly equivalent to "No relevant health condition? No need to reduce sodium!"
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 30,358 Member
    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    33gail33 wrote: »
    @cwolfman13 @Xellercin

    I guess I look at it differently. Sodium intake is a long term problem, issues can show up years later. So telling someone they don't need to moderate their intake unless they have a health issue to me it is kind of like saying if someone doesn't have lung cancer yet then we shouldn't advise them to give up smoking.

    I just think that given this is a calorie counting/weight loss forum the chances that someone here would be in the **90-99% of those who get too much sodium is much greater than them being an outlier in the 1-10% that gets under the recommended amount. If you are changing your diet anyway then why not make it as healthy as possible.

    It seemed to me that they were looking for information and advice. Personally I think "don't worry about it" for someone who is regularly exceeding the recommended amount seems like the wrong advice.

    (**depending on the source)

    I didn't see anyone say "don't worry about it"...I certainly didn't. Overhauling one's diet is usually not a flip of the switch kind of thing. People who do it successfully long term make incremental changes as they move along. In that regard, prioritize what is most important first. Sodium is also not usually the root cause of people's issues which ultimately require them medically to watch their sodium intake...these are generally complications from obesity and living a sedentary lifestyle causing diseases for which sodium needs to be monitored. Kind of like carbohydrates don't cause diabetes, but once you have diabetes you have to watch your carbohydrates.

    When I started I put my focus on overall eating healthier which meant more whole foods and cooking at home and less eating out and less processed food goods. I didn't really make an inherent effort to lower my sodium, it just happened in the process of eating healthier. My Dr. wanted me to reduce sodium, but first and foremost he just wanted me to lose weight and be more active as even 10 Lbs lost drastically improved my blood work and hypertension. That was priority one...sodium reduction was a little down the line, but as it happened when I started eating better sodium was naturally reduced.

    That's what I'd experienced, in a more general way: If I focus on trying to improving my overall nutrition and the general healthfulness of my overall eating, the main problem things tend to drop by the wayside without much attention on them.

    People can eliminate "bad things" (sodium, junk food, whatever) from their eating, and still be getting poor overall nutrition (macros, fiber, micros). That's not a win.

    If someone gets to decent-ish overall nutrition, but still has a couple of sub-categories that could be improved (like sodium intake), that seems closer to a win, to me.

    But absolutely, if someone has an existing health problem that makes eliminating a problem - like sodium - really urgent, then it can make sense to focus there immediately.

    As an aside, salt/sodium is one thing not reduced, for me, with overall healthier eating . . . in part because I like to eat various live-culture fermented foods, consider those health-promoting, and some of the common ones are salty (sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, . . . . ). Since I don't have high blood pressure (now that I'm not obese), and sweat buckets in regular workouts while hydrating well, I feel like the value of the food-sourced probiotics is a higher priority for me than reducing the sodium. Others' mileage may vary, and that's fine.
  • Xellercin
    Xellercin Posts: 924 Member
    edited June 2022
    33gail33 wrote: »
    @cwolfman13 @Xellercin

    I guess I look at it differently. Sodium intake is a long term problem, issues can show up years later. So telling someone they don't need to moderate their intake unless they have a health issue to me it is kind of like saying if someone doesn't have lung cancer yet then we shouldn't advise them to give up smoking.

    I just think that given this is a calorie counting/weight loss forum the chances that someone here would be in the **90-99% of those who get too much sodium is much greater than them being an outlier in the 1-10% that gets under the recommended amount. If you are changing your diet anyway then why not make it as healthy as possible.

    It seemed to me that they were looking for information and advice. Personally I think "don't worry about it" for someone who is regularly exceeding the recommended amount seems like the wrong advice.

    (**depending on the source)

    I prefer to give people accurate advice rather than the advice that I think statistically is most likely to be accurate for them.

    I still stand by my position that if someone says they are struggling to reduce their intake of something, that the most logical question is to ask why they think they need to reduce it.

    That's exactly how people would reply here if I said I was struggling to eliminate sugar, or struggling to cut carbs. I would get a million responses indicating that I absolutely do not need to be cutting those foods unless I have a reason to.

    You say that 90% of people are consuming too much salt...well...maybe. I don't know where you are getting those numbers, but there's a huge difference between people consuming more than the RDI of salt, and people consuming more salt than their particular bodies can handle.

    I take elephant doses of salt every day, and no, it will not cause damage over the years that will hurt me later, salt doesn't do that. What it does do is raise blood pressure, which can cause massive damage for anyone whose system can't take their blood pressure being raised. The damage comes primarily from the elevated blood pressure, not the salt itself.

    There is a *right* amount of salt for each person, and yes, it depends on their particular system. The reason low sodium is so good for so many people is because there are SO MANY people out there with elevated blood pressure. My assistant used to get so excited when we would have a middle aged patient with healthy blood pressure because it was so rare.

    So if OP has elevated blood pressure, or kidney problems, etc, then hell yes they should lower their salt intake, but they should also *know* that about their health as well. If they literally have no health reason to avoid salt, then yeah, struggling to reduce salt is a HUGE waste of their time and effort.

    I constantly had patients coming to me engaging in horrid "health" behaviours that they were convinced were important, when they weren't. The moment someone struggles with a health habit, it just makes sense to ensure that they actually *should* be doing it.

    Because why would I want someone wasting their energy and motivation on a health habit if they don't even benefit from it?
  • 33gail33
    33gail33 Posts: 1,155 Member
    edited June 2022
    "I still stand by my position that if someone says they are struggling to reduce their intake of something, that the most logical question is to ask why they think they need to reduce it."

    Whenever someone comes on here and asks about a certain habit, or about something they want to change, and people repeatedly ask them "why?" it always kind of strikes me as infantilization. Like the person wants to make (what is generally accepted as a) healthful change - why try to tell them they don't need to?

    "So if OP has elevated blood pressure, or kidney problems, etc, then hell yes they should lower their salt intake, but they should also *know* that about their health as well. If they literally have no health reason to avoid salt, then yeah, struggling to reduce salt is a HUGE waste of their time and effort."

    That's an interesting way to look at it, and again that's not how I view these kind of things. Most of my health habits are not in response to an acute problem, but rather something that I adopt in hopes of maintaining my health (and longevity) long term. Not a lot of people in their 20's have significant health issues, but poor health/eating habits over the years add up to middle age problems. Again - to me it's like saying you don't have to quit smoking until you get lung cancer. Or you don't have to exercise until you - idk - have osteoporosis.

    You say that 90% of people are consuming too much salt...well...maybe. I don't know where you are getting those numbers, but there's a huge difference between people consuming more than the RDI of salt, and people consuming more salt than their particular bodies can handle."

    From the CDC:

    https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/sodium.htm

    "About 90% of Americans 2 years old or older consume too much sodium."

    "take elephant doses of salt every day, and no, it will not cause damage over the years that will hurt me later, salt doesn't do that. What it does do is raise blood pressure, which can cause massive damage for anyone whose system can't take their blood pressure being raised. The damage comes primarily from the elevated blood pressure, not the salt itself."

    Exactly - it raises blood pressure (mainly - among other things) which causes damage. So saying that the sodium itself doesn't cause issues is splitting hairs.

    "I constantly had patients coming to me engaging in horrid "health" behaviours that they were convinced were important, when they weren't. The moment someone struggles with a health habit, it just makes sense to ensure that they actually *should* be doing it."

    Are you a doctor?

    At any rate, thanks for answering my question and for the discussion. Just a difference in viewpoint, I am always curious about how other people think/communicate. :smile:
  • 33gail33
    33gail33 Posts: 1,155 Member
    Xellercin wrote: »
    Note: even when someone else replied to me and said that they should maybe feel less guilty about their salt snacking, I cautioned that they too should investigate what *their* particular salt needs are. So in no way have I been promoting that people disregard the dangers of too much salt. Not at all.

    How does one do that? Like in general I try to keep my sodium low-ish (my husband and mother both have high blood pressure). How would I investigate what my particular salt needs are?