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Is Sodium Bad for Weight Loss? Facts Explained
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Is Sodium Bad for Weight Loss? Facts Explained

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Published on 2022 August 1
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8 min

Sodium is an essential mineral that your body needs for optimum function. But is sodium bad for weight loss? And how much should you take? Find out all about this and much more.

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Is Sodium Bad for Weight Loss? Facts Explained | HealthReporter

Excess sodium can interfere with your body fat and progress if you’re trying to lose weight. It causes water retention, which causes bloating, slowing your metabolism and making it difficult for the body to burn fat. Consuming too much sodium also leads to edema, which is not helpful with weight loss.

When trying to lose weight, it’s difficult to know what is good for you and what isn’t. It’s even trickier when it comes to sodium and weight loss. 

People could think that sodium might just cause fluid retention. However, this mineral is essential for our body function, including fluid and heart rate regulation and transport of nutrients. 

You may wonder if sodium is bad for weight loss and how much you should consume to reduce weight. This article explains all you need to know regarding sodium and weight loss. 

What Is Sodium?

Sodium is a mineral that is in salt and other foods. It’s an essential nutrient that your body needs to function correctly. It helps regulate fluid balance in your body by moving fluid into and out of cells.

Sodium also helps transmit nerve impulses and plays a role in muscle contraction and relaxation. You also need this mineral to keep your heart regularly beating.

There are two types of sodium: natural sodium and added sodium. Natural sodium occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, whole grains, and meats. Exceeding this type of sodium is rare because your body requires only small amounts.

Added sodium is in processed foods such as

Sodium is also found in table salt, which comprises roughly 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Most Americans consume more than enough sodium daily, considering that 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium.

This is slightly more than the daily limit of 2.3 g recommended by doctors and dieticians.

Is sodium bad for you?

Our bodies need this essential mineral to function effectively. Too much sodium intake, however, is harmful to your health. High sodium diets can cause health issues like high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of stroke, and heart and kidney disease. 

If you’re trying to lose weight, high sodium foods may cause your body to retain water, resulting in weight gain.

Research suggests that consuming too much sodium may contribute to gaining weight by increasing the amount of water weight in the body and causing you to feel full sooner when eating less food.

If you’re also salt sensitive, you may notice your blood pressure rise by five points or more if you have a high-sodium diet. Reducing salt can be important for your overall health if you’re hypertensive. 

Besides dehydration, too much sodium can cause your taste buds to become less sensitive, which means food will lose its flavor, forcing you to add more salt to make it taste better, which is even more harmful.

Why Is Sodium Bad for You?

High sodium intake over time can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Research suggests that excess sodium may also be linked to osteoporosis, kidney stones, and headaches.

Most Americans consume 3.4 g of sodium, which is two times more than the recommended amount of no more than 2.30 g or an ideal limit of no more than 1.5 g per day.

Sodium also affects insulin levels in your body, leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes‌.

When this happens, insulin is less effective at helping transport glucose out of your bloodstream into cells that need it to function correctly. Instead, it leaves it circulating in your bloodstream, where it’s stored as fat or sent back into the bloodstream as ketones, making it harder to lose weight.

Why Is Sodium Bad for Weight Loss?

If you’re on a weight loss journey, you’re probably following the latest nutrition trends, and you might have heard that extra fluid consumed is then used to dilute the excess sodium in the bloodstream, allowing sodium to be excreted through urine. Here’s why: 

#1 It makes you retain water

People associate excessive salt in the diet with fluid retention because high salt intake makes your body store water. Sodium doesn’t affect body fat, but eating too much of it can cause water retention, leading to weight gain.

High salty food intake increases thirst. The more the urge, the more water or fluid you drink. Your body then uses the extra fluid you take to dilute the excess sodium in the bloodstream to excrete sodium from the body through urine.

However, your urine volume doesn’t change because the extra fluid stays in your body for a while, causing water retention. This leads to bloating and weight gain, even if you eat less.

#2 Foods high in salt often are high in calories

Foods with a high sodium content are often high in calories. To lose body fat, you need to take fewer calories than you burn every day. When you eat more than you need, you may gain weight. High-sodium foods include processed foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, fast food meals, and various condiments, such as sauces.

Studies show that high salt intake, regardless of calorie intake, has been linked to an increased risk of obesity. The research also showed that an increase in sodium consumption of one gram per day was linked to a 28% and 26% increased risk of obesity in children and adults. 

#3 May lead to high blood pressure

The more sodium you eat, the more your blood pressure will likely rise over time. It can make it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body and increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack later in life. Taking a weight-loss diet with reduced sodium may help lower your blood pressure.

How Much Sodium to Take per Day to Lose Weight

There is no daily sodium intake recommendation for weight loss. However, as long as your blood sodium levels aren’t causing problems, any amount between 500 mg and 3,400 mg per day is likely safe. It’s better to stay within the recommended range of 1,500 mg to 2,300 mg per day.

Besides helping you lose excess water weight, reducing your daily sodium consumption will help lower the risk of developing high blood pressure, which is linked to stroke and heart disease. A low-sodium diet also promotes healthy bones. A high intake may cause calcium loss in your bones.

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The American Heart Association estimates that 70% of sodium in the American diet comes from restaurants and packaged prepared foods, and not salt shakers. Consuming less sodium may lead to better food choices such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lean animal proteins like poultry and fish.

Such foods might also be lower in calories and satiating, making them ideal for losing body fat.

How to Cut Back on Added Salt: Tips by Our MD

If you want to reduce body fat and have a healthy life, cutting back on salt is the way. It can help you lose weight, lower your heart rate, and reduce heart disease and stroke risk. Here are some tips for reducing added salt:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in sodium, and have a healthy diet.
  • Choose low sodium foods with fewer calories. 
  • Reduce processed foods with high salt content, such as canned chicken or soups.
  • Prepare your meals from scratch using fresh ingredients and season them.
  • Avoid high-sodium condiments such as soy sauce and ketchup packets with fast-food meals.
  • Read food labels carefully when shopping. Look at the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods to see how much salt is in each serving size.
  • Use spices that contain potassium instead of sodium (for example, basil instead of salt).
    Furthermore, over-salting home-cooked meals can considerably increase your overall salt intake. Avoid table salt, reduce the amount of salt you use in your cooking, and taste your meal before to avoid adding extra salt.

FAQs

Is sodium a significant source of calories?

Sodium is not a significant source of calories, but foods that contain high salt are often high in calories and can make you retain water, leading to water weight gain. While it’s not a significant source of calories, ‌it can be if you eat a high sodium diet.

Is salt fattening?

Salt may not be directly responsible for too much body fat, but it can lead to an unhealthy diet, which can cause extra pounds. Daily sodium consumption of over 2,300 mg is linked to higher levels of obesity and belly fat than moderate sodium intake of 1,500–2,300 mg.

Can sodium make you gain weight overnight?

A high-sodium diet can lead to weight gain overnight because it increases the amount of fluid in the body. Sodium causes fluid retention and bloating, making cells hold more water, which leads to increased fat storage, especially around the belly area. As a result, you gain weight.

A Word From Our MD

As much as sodium has been vilified in the American diet—mostly because we consume far too much —it plays an equally important role in the functioning of our bodies. It helps regulate body functions such as heart rate, respiration, digestion, and brain activity.

While removing the salt shaker from your kitchen table is a good start, there are other ways to reduce sodium in your diet. Herbs and spices, for example, could be the best option. To make your meals more interesting, use different herbs and spices daily.

It’s also a good idea to avoid processed foods, as they contain most of the salts we consume. You can significantly reduce your salt intake by avoiding these foods and sticking to home-cooked meals. Most importantly, avoid the AHA’s “Salty Six” bread, sandwiches, cold cuts, tacos, pizza, soup, burgers, and burritos.

The recommended daily intake of sodium is 2.3 g. But, if you’re trying to lose or maintain your ideal weight, reducing sodium intake may help you accomplish your goals.

Remember that less is better, especially if you’re sodium sensitive. Consult your doctor or a dietitian if you’re unsure how much sodium you should consume.

Conclusion

Sodium is necessary for the body’s fluid balance and nerve and muscle function. However, too much sodium in the diet can cause weight gain, hypertension, and other health issues. 

If you’re concerned about your sodium intake—whether you’re getting too much or not enough—talk to your doctor to see how your sodium intake may affect your health. Reading labels carefully and nutrition values can help you figure out how much sodium is in the foods you eat. 

People trying to lose weight should follow a low-sodium diet and choose fresh produce ‌and products that are sodium-free or low in sodium on the label.

Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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