Signs You’re Eating Too Much Salt from Signs You’re Eating Too Much Salt
Signs You’re Eating Too Much Salt
We all know to expect a sodium overload when we head out for a pizza night or order that extra-large bucket of popcorn at the movies. But salt has a way of sneaking into one’s diet in so many more ways than we realize, and it’s not all coming from the salt shaker (or that fancy Himalayan pink salt grinder).
Salt is nearly impossible to avoid. Unless you prepare every scrap of food yourself, you’ve probably eaten too much salt at one point or another. If it comes packaged, canned, or frozen — basically if it’s made by pretty much anyone other than yourself — chances are good that it’s chock-full of sodium. Processed foods are packed with the stuff!
But salt isn’t necessarily the villain it sometimes appears to be. Sodium is necessary for nerve health and healthy blood pressure, and it helps the body absorb certain nutrients. You need a small amount of salt daily to remain healthy, but too much can cause detrimental side effects.
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum intake of 2,300 milligrams a day, although 1,500 milligrams per day would be ideal for most adults. The average American consumes over 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day (one and a half times the recommended amount!), with 70 percent of it coming from packaged foods.
Here are some common signs that it may be time to put the shaker (or box or can) down.
Too much sodium causes you to retain water, which can lead to bloating. After a salty meal, your bloodstream contains excess sodium. Water leaves your cells to balance this out, causing swelling. Luckily this is temporary, and you will lose the bloat as sodium and water levels stabilize. In addition to avoiding salt, try these tactics to combat bloating.
This one’s pretty shocking, we know. Sodium found in salt helps to balance fluid inside the body’s cells (table salt is approximately 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride). When you consume excessively salty foods, such as pizza, water is drawn out of your cells, triggering thirst. Thirst is your body’s way of telling you it needs more water to keep the whole system balanced.
Salt not only increases the risk for serious brain diseases, but can also make you feel...foggy. Are you forgetful, can’t find the right words, have difficulty focusing… wait, what were we just talking about?
Food Tastes Bland
In addition to some serious health risks, too much salt can also play games with your taste buds. What seemed flavorful and delicious before can become bland and tasteless over time. The more salt you eat, the more you need to get that same mouthwatering reaction. Cut back on salt without sacrificing flavor by using fresh herbs, spices, and citrus fruit to season your food.
The kidneys filter the body’s blood, removing waste and extra water to make urine. They maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in the blood. When this balance is out of whack, problems arise. The more salt that’s consumed, the more water the kidneys draw into the system. The more excess water, the more trips to the bathroom there will be in your future.
High Blood Pressure
Keep an eye on that blood pressure. Too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, which can weaken and damage your arteries, heart, and other organs. Over time it can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Try these 14 eating habits to lower your blood pressure.
A high-sodium diet increases the amount of calcium you excrete in your urine, which can trigger kidney stones. If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, chances are good you won’t forget it. Kidney stones are formed when chemicals in urine (such as calcium) become concentrated and form crystals. Those crystals grow larger, and as they pass through the urinary tract, they can get stuck and eventually block things up. Ouch.
The proper sodium-potassium balance is essential for muscle contraction. Overconsumption of salt throws this crucial balance out of whack, leading to muscle pain, tightness, and cramping. Check food labels for sneaky sodium-containing ingredients like sodium nitrate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium citrate, and sodium benzoate.
You may be hitting the Nalgene bottle with the best of them, but eating a ton of salty food can still leave you with a dry mouth, which is a surefire sign of dehydration. Other symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and confusion. Get more fluids into your body, stat!
When you eat salty foods, your blood volume increases to balance out the salt levels in your bloodstream. This takes us more space in your blood vessels, expanding them, causing high blood pressure and triggering headaches. Here are 10 things that happen to your body when you have a headache.
Eating too much sodium can have negative effects on your stomach. Over time, excessive salt consumption can harm the stomach’s mucous lining. This is called metaplasia, and means there’s been an abnormal change in otherwise healthy tissue. Excessive salt consumption has even been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
Do you wake up with puffy eyes, or are your rings feeling a little tight lately? You could be eating too much salt. Try increasing your water intake, or drinking one of these beverages that are more hydrating than a glass of water, to banish that puffy appearance.
Excess salt can also negatively affect your quality of sleep. Excess water retention from salt overload can make it uncomfortable to lie down at night to go to sleep. This excess water may settle in the upper body and make it difficult to breathe, and can sometimes leads to sleep apnea.
Unhealthy Food Preferences
Consuming loads of salt can make it more difficult to taste the flavor of healthy, unseasoned, natural foods. Those who consume excessive amounts may also develop a preference for saltier foods over time, like bacon, lunch meat, and canned soup.
Too much salt increases calcium loss, as calcium is excreted through the urine by the kidneys. Over time, a calcium deficiency leads to weak bones and eventually osteoporosis. Some of the highest-salt foods to limit or avoid include processed meats, canned soups and vegetables, and baked products like bread and breakfast cereal.
Foods higher in salt tend to be highly caloric as well — just think about restaurant meals, fried foods, and most snacks. These calorie-dense foods are highly palatable, so they are also just easier to over-eat to begin with. But it’s not all doom and gloom: A balanced sodium intake has also been linked to a healthier gut microbiome, which is associated with a healthy weight balance overall. A strong digestive system is essential for optimal health, and these are the best foods for gut health.