Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A History Lesson: And The Truth About Sodium

"You're the salt of the earth..." People use that phrase all the time and I'm quite certain a lot of them don't even know what it means.  It basically means that someone is a genuinely good and useful, hardworking, individuals who add value to others, and brings out the best in people.
Not to get all historical on you...but I'm gonna...the phrase actually goes back to biblical times when Jesus referred to his disciples as the "salt of the earth." Salt back then, and throughout history was used not only for bringing out the flavor in foods, but it was also used for preserving foods, healing, and disinfecting, among other things. It was a very valuable commodity to have because of it's many purposes. It meant they would be able to preserve food to eat in the coming months.

While it is pretty clear that salt is extremely important, now days we have taken salt usage to the extreme. It is loaded into the food we eat, namely the processed foods that are meant to last, which we happen to indulge in freely. Canned soups, frozen entrees, and processed meats are definitely culprits of excess sodium.

The body does need some salt to function. It helps to maintain your body's PH levels, helps to transmit nerve impulses, maintains your body's hydration inside and outside the cell, and has an influence on the contraction and relaxation of muscles. Your kidneys are the regulators of your sodium levels, holding onto what they need and excreting what they don't. Sometimes an increase in salt that can't be excreted. This salt can accumulate in the blood, as this happens your blood volume increases. This occurs because sodium attracts water and holds on to it. This is why when you eat an extremely high amount of sodium you retain fluid. This increase in blood volume doesn't just have to do with water weight, but can also lead to disease. The increased volume increases pressure in the arteries which over time can lead to diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, congestive heart failure, and increased  blood pressure.

The dietary guidelines for american's that were laid out in 2010 suggest 2,300 milligrams per day for those under 51. For individuals over 51 or with diseases that are sodium sensitive 1,500 milligrams per day is recommended. Most Americans get double that in a day. Foods like canned/cured/processed meats, cheese, dressings, canned soup, processed snack foods (pretzels, salty peanuts, crackers, cheese puffs, popcorn, etc), pickled foods, and other frozen entrees and dinners are some of the most commonly devoured culprits. This doesn't mean that you can't or absolutely shouldn't eat them, only that you should be mindful of your diet and try to vary the foods you intake instead of eating only foods high in salt.

Some ways to decrease your sodium intake are:
- stick to fresh produce
- if fresh produce isn't available choose frozen as your second option, then canned.
- cook your own meat
- make your own soups and main courses. If the recipe calls for salt wait to add it until you have tasted it. It may not even need the amount of salt it is calling for.
- choose to flavor with fresh herbs and spices instead of always loading on the salt
- go easy on the processed snacks (or eliminate them altogether, chances are they aren't that great for you anyways)
- check your labels. It never hurts to be in the know.

It should also be known that endurance athletes who exercise for hours longer than three hours at a time are at risk for having a depleted sodium stores in the body which can be dangerous. Using endurance supplementation while you are running is a great way to be sure you don't have this problem.

Are you a salty food type of person? Are you seeing some possible ways that you could cut back your sodium intake?


Tri-Living said...

Yes, I CRAVE salt.. I did read that is because of adrenal exhaustion. But when I run long distances if I don't get enough I'm covered in it! My half iron man I could scrape it off my face and I had a ring on my shirt of salt.

Natalie said...

I. love. salty. food. I'd say that 90% of the time, when I want a snack, I crave salty stuff. I try to go for low sodium crackers, raw nuts (specifically almonds), and light butter or kettle popcorn. I still get my fix, but don't totally destroy my body!

Rachelle Wardle said...

Oh no you always make me feel so guilty. :( I am a salt fanatic. I love it and I constantly crave it. I think it is because I run so much or at least that is how I justify it. Either way I should probably pay more attention to it!

Kate said...

Noooo!! I love salt. :( I know it is so bad for me and I really do need to cut down. I guess it was good that you posted this because I need a kick in the butt!

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