Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - What's your take on sodium?

View Full Version : What's your take on sodium?

02-25-2011, 11:46 AM
Let's talk about sodium. I see it come up all the time - "watch out for this and that, it's loaded with sodium" or "season however you want but watch out for salt" or "don't go over so many mg of sodium per day" etc.

As far as I can tell, there are two reasons for avoiding sodium:

(1) It's connected with high blood pressure
(2) It causes fluid retention which can make you feel bloated and cause the numbers to go up on the scale

Speaking just for myself, now, I have never had an issue with (1) - I've never had a medical reason to watch my salt. As for (2), a bounce here and there is something I am willing to put up with in exchange for food that actually tastes like something. ;)

Now I don't eat, and never have eaten, much in the way of processed commercial foods or fast foods. So, when I talk about my own sodium intake, I'm talking about salt I put in my own cooking or salt I get in quality restaurant food. Salt is a wonderful seasoning, a miracle seasoning - it brightens and deepens other flavors, it makes vegetables vibrant in color, it make salad greens taste wonderful without needing any oil or dressing, it draws the moisture out of meats so they brown wonderfully. I use it liberally, as do, I'm sure, the chefs at my favorite restaurants.

So what all of this adds up to is: for me, I love salt, I rely on it to help make my healthy, on-plan food tasty and delicious. So is there any reason I should even think about it? Given that I have no blood pressure issues and given that fluid bounces don't drive me crazy, what else should I know about sodium? Are these the only reasons people eschew this wonderful stuff, or is there more going on there? What's your take?

02-25-2011, 11:53 AM
A few years ago, I cut out added salt completely. It was amazing how my tastebuds changed and that foods became more flavorful without salt. I was happy with the decision but then my blood pressure went way too low and I started having issues. Since then, I've added some salt back into my diet and my blood pressure has normalized.

02-25-2011, 11:56 AM
i dont know any other reasons to avoid it other than what you have said. if im eating something proccesed i dont add salt, but if im cooking something myself i do add a bit. i noticed something the other day, i bought a can of unsweetened unsalted corn and it was horrible! completely tasteless. i couldnt believe the difference between that and the normal stuff. i love food and the idea of eating only bland stuff isnt appealing to me, but i do go for the lower sodim options in certain things, stock and gravy etc.

02-25-2011, 12:01 PM
Salt is not so bad and even the blood pressure studies are not conclusively related to salt intake, How crazy is that? I've been doing a lot of reading and salt gets a bad rap from a bad study.

I enjoy salt too and I have NOT decreased my intake with this weight loss journey and like you, I do not eat commercially prepared foods, but foods at home. I had ham (WHole foods ham) yesterday and for a day my weight jumped up. Well, OK, it was water, so what. Next day it was gone.

And I do have recently developed blood pressure issues and with eating healthier and exercising, I've already halved the dosage - without changing my salt intake. And even the best studies say only half the population is salt sensitive.

And instead of reducing salt if you are salt sensitive - up your potassium - it's the balance of the two that is important. Good sources of potassium? Avocado and nuts (better than bananas). and any fruit, basically.

Oh, and sea salt is a better balance as it has other minerals - like potassium and magnesium, etc.

02-25-2011, 12:24 PM
My take on it is that salt does not make you fat. You may retain a little bit of water after an usually high sodium day, but it is part of normal fluctuations and will go down. I have no bp problems, but did during my first pregnancy. One of my OBs told me to limit salt, his partner said it didn't matter because the negative effects of sodium on bp were not medically proven.

I made homemade chicken teriyaki yesterday. One of my favorite recipes, and the sauce and marinade contain a lot of soy sauce. Yup, my weight is up by a half-pound today, but it is not fat, it is water and will be gone by tomorrow.

02-25-2011, 12:27 PM
I don't watch out for it either unless I'm worried about the scale going up. I know I am retaining water today for example, because I've had sodium heavy foods yesterday. It's no surprise it's showing up on the scale today.

I take my blood pressure regularly (for the **** of it, since I've never had a problem) and it hasn't gone up. It's normally in the middle to low range.

I also try to eat as unprocessed as possible.

02-25-2011, 12:29 PM
I don't eat processed food either so I don't worry about it. But I love salt and use it on my foods. I use kosher or sea salt since the larger grains and flakes give a better flavor. And I buy my chocolate with salt in it, too.

02-25-2011, 12:33 PM
A few years ago, I cut out added salt completely. It was amazing how my tastebuds changed and that foods became more flavorful without salt. I was happy with the decision but then my blood pressure went way too low and I started having issues. Since then, I've added some salt back into my diet and my blood pressure has normalized.


A little salt does "enhance" flavor...but alot of salt (which is what you get when you eat out at restaurants) only "masks" the "real" flavor of food. I find that I can actually taste food now that I limit my sodium intake...for example...unsalted cashews...ooohhh...the nutty goodness I previously missed in the salted version.;)

02-25-2011, 12:42 PM
We use Salt Lite at home which is 1/2 salt and 1/2 potassium.

Since we are salt-aholics we can use salt lite guilt free!:carrot:

02-25-2011, 12:49 PM
I grew up with no salt, we never added it to anything. To this day, I don't add it to foods, and generally when things call for it, I omit it.

When others prepare foods, wether I'm out at a place or at a friends, I can always tell if something has salt, I guess I'm overly sensitive to it now.

Lol, I don't even fill the salt shaker, only the pepper shaker. My DH was in for a wake up call when we got married, but now he doesn't use it either. Poor guy. :lol:

02-25-2011, 01:05 PM
Some people are more sensitive to salt also. Generally if you suffer from high blood pressure it's recommended to cut it out as much as possible.

I don't have high blood pressure BUT I did at one point, I do not add salt to pretty much anything I cook at home unless a recipe specifically calls for it but even that is rare for me cuz most recipes can omit them (I don't omit for things like baked goods though).

If salt doesn't affect you then go for it- but if you have high blood pressure, hypertension, etc, lowering the salt is very necessary.

I also agree though- since not using salt in my diet my taste buds have changed and I the taste of food is even better- there are MANY more seasonings and spices out there than just salt. Thyme, garlic, onion, paprika, oregano, cajun, etc.

02-25-2011, 06:09 PM
I never worried about it until recently - I've been switching to a higher protein and fat diet, and with that comes a lot of canned beans, eggs, lunch meat, etc. It's honestly amazing how much sodium food manufacturers can stuff into something as innocuous as a can of green beans!

So for me, the issue isn't eating too much fast food or adding too much table salt to my meals - it's the amount of sodium that's acceptable in commercially packaged foods that are supposed to be "healthy". And I definitely find that consuming more sodium that way causes me to hold water and slows down my weight loss.

02-25-2011, 06:33 PM
Salt that you add during cooking or at the table doesn't even BEGIN to approach the amount of sodium in processed foods (1/4 tsp of table salt has something like 590 mg sodium. And who adds a quarter-teaspoon of salt to any one serving of anything?) I wouldn't sweat it.

02-25-2011, 07:05 PM
Hah, my thread got moved to the food and cooking forum. I'm not convinced it belongs here - it's not about food or cooking, it's about sodium intake - but then perhaps it doesn't belong in the Support forum either, so I'll happily defer to the moderators' decision.

Anyhow - I want to thank you all for the comments - you have all pretty much said exactly what I want to hear and so I will happily go on liberally adding salt along with all the other seasonings that go into my cooking. ;)

02-25-2011, 10:11 PM
I also love salt. I use Salt Sense because I'm really prone to retaining water and I wake up puffy as a blow fish if I over do it. But I have heard things about salt causing food cravings. A friend of mine did some salt free diet once and she told me the book she based it on said that the salt will cause cravings for ......something, not sure. But I've always been curious about this, too.

katy trail
02-25-2011, 10:19 PM
it's in the food talk forum, makes sense to me. facinating topic.

02-25-2011, 10:38 PM
Even though I have moderate high blood pressure (controlled well by medication), I am not on a sodium-restricted diet. My blood levels of sodium tend to be quite low, to the point my doctor will encourage occasionally for me to add some extra salt in my diet for a few days (once I even had to take sodium supplements before surgery because my sodium levels were unsafely low).

I don't eat a lot of salt or processed foods, but even so my doctor says it's rare for someone to shed sodium as easily as my body appears to. As a result, I don't have to watch sodium intake for my blood pressure.

If I do eat a little extra salt, I just drink extra water. It usually resolves any water retention issue in a couple days.

Even if you have high blood pressure, there are ways to determine whether you're sodium sensitive, which you can discuss with your doctor. Also, some blood pressure medications help your body excrete excess sodium, making strict sodium restriction less of a concern.

I'm all for watching salt intake. It is nice to be able to taste and enjoy foods without having to add salt to everything (I had an uncle we used to use so much salt that we joked that he "salted his salt").

But I think sodium as a health risk is sometimes blown out of proportion.

Nola Celeste
02-25-2011, 11:24 PM
I pretty much don't pay attention to sodium content at all. Sometimes I'm a little surprised at the sodium contents of some prepared foods--there was some restaurant meal that was listed in "Eat This, Not That!" as having over four thousand milligrams of the stuff--but I don't keep track. My blood pressure's normal; if it were at all high, I'd look into whether I was sensitive to salt, but as I don't appear to be, I enjoy it.

I'm not much of a salt junkie, though. My husband's the one who uses it on every plate of food (often before he's even tasted it); I use it while cooking, but almost never add salt to a dish at the table. I do think it's gotten a bit of a bum rap from early salt studies, much as dietary fat did from early cholesterol studies.

02-25-2011, 11:41 PM
But I have heard things about salt causing food cravings.

Ya know...I do believe this to be true. I've always been an AVID salt lover until just 5 months ago. I never thought I could or would want to eat low sodium.

I've successfully lost substantial amounts of weight on many different types of eating plans, however, I always ingested large amounts of sodium. So, to say that high sodium diets impede weight loss is something I personally know to be false. That said, I HAVE NOTICED that since eating low sodium, I have NO problems controlling my appetite, and don't get cravings (unless it's TOM, of course!;)) I can be in social settings where there's everything from Krispy Kremes to Fried Chicken and absolutely have no desire to eat it. This simply was not the case when I ate high sodium.

Perhaps this is the answer to sustaining weight loss....we shall see...or rather "I" shall see!;) In any event...whatever floats your boat...I'd say.:D

02-26-2011, 01:39 AM
In the last year or so, with my other lifestyle changes, I have concentrated on eating as few processed foods as possible. I believe they are a huge source of unhealthy levels of sodium for me and my family. I have not limited my use of salt in making home cooked meals though. I feel it is needed to add good flavor. Don't get me wrong, I use canned or pre-packaged foods every now and then, but have greatly reduced their use in my home.

When my fiance recently was diagnosed with high blood pressure and began taking medication, his doctor pretty much said what I discussed above. Now if only I could get him to stop buying those pre-packaged meats and rice mixes.:(

Interestingly, I find some items that are pre-packaged and listed as "salt free" or "no added salt" actually taste better to me. For example, I LOVE canned, salt-free sweet corn. It really retains it crispness and sweetness without the added salt. Tastes so much fresher to me.

02-26-2011, 09:11 PM
I think the book "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler had a really interesting take on the addictive properties of the salt/fat/carb(sweet or starchy) flavor combination.

As I said I'm not a big fan of salt flavor (on its own), but I have a much higher tolerance for salt if the flavor is counterbalanced by sweet. After reading Kessler's book, I began looking at the fat/salt/sweet combination as "kryptonite."

Any of those flavors alone, doesn't drive my appetite into overdrive, but 2/3 is tougher, and 3/3 is irresistable. It's best to keep 3/3 combinations out of my mouth (and readymade combinations out of my house). I have the ingredients to make butter toffee in the house right now. That would be stupid, but the individual ingredients don't "call to me" the way skor bars would from the cabinet. Mostly because the time it would take to put the ingredients together is time enough to talk myself out of making it

02-27-2011, 03:36 PM
I have never had any blood pressure issues, and so I don't worry about or track my sodium intake from that perspective. I look at the sodium content on the labelled food products I buy, but only to make sure the sodium isn't unreasonably high. When cooking at home, I add salt where I think it's needed for flavor. I do notice the water retention that comes with sodium heavy meals (usually restaurant meals), but I just drink a lot of water when I have those to flush it out my body.

Larry H
02-28-2011, 12:11 AM
I try to buy low sodium food and unless neccessary I do not add salt to my cooking. This is for my wife's benefit as she has high blood pressure and she is sensitive to salt. It raises her BP alot.

However when the food gets to the table I grab the salt shaker and use it freely with no BP or water problems with it. As a matter of fact my BP is very low. It seems to be in my family genes as my brothers and my sister also have very low blood pressure.

I love the taste that salt adds to food.

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people. ~Orson Welles

03-04-2011, 09:29 PM
I don't eat too much processed food. When I have the option, I definitely get low sodium (like chicken broth and such). But when I'm cooking or seasoning my own fresh whole foods, I do add a bit of salt. I have never liked things to be too salty, so I just salt it to taste which is just a pinch.

I haven't watched sodium intake at all. I haven't directly changed my salt consumption, but due to eating less processed foods and eating out less, I consume less salt. I don't really care if I get so many mg's of salt in a day, I know it might affect my weight the next day a bit, but whatever. It won't kill me and I naturally don't consume a lot of sodium so I don't worry about it much.