[Read the edited version on the CollegeCandy site.]
Sodium is like that annoying, socially awkward neighbor you avoid inviting to your parties. He must know he’s not welcome, but he can’t take a hint. Somehow he always manages to arrive sporting a neon bandana, jorts, and a case of Natty Light (somewhat tolerable). But I digress. Clearly your sodium is not clad in ridiculous cut-off jeans – the point is that the amount of salt we consume daily can add up when you least expect it. Summer happens to bring out the worst in my issues with salt (read: bloating). No matter how hard we hit the gym to get fit for bathing suit season, that extra water retention always manages to come back and haunt us right before we hit the beach. I say to hell with it.
I’ve written about the other negative effects that sodium has on the body, too. Think high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, etc… my personal fave has to be fluid retention though. You can become bloated because your body retains water to dilute all of the sodium you’ve consumed. The Mayo Clinic recommends less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day for healthy adults. Thousands of milligrams, you say? Puh-lease. Why am I even reading this article?
HOLD UP, girl. Put that daily recommendation of 2,300 mg of sodium into perspective! Let’s say you decide your salad needs a little more flava: a measly teaspoon of table salt. Be prepared – you’re adding 2,325 mg of sodium, which means you are already over your daily recommended intake.
NOW think about this: on average, only 5% of our daily sodium intake is from adding it into our foods. The real culprits are processed and prepared foods – a whopping 77% of our daily sodium intake, to be exact! You don’t need to cut out salt completely – it would be near impossible because it’s in practically everything you eat. We need a small amount for our bodies to function anyway. For example, when the annoying neighbor inevitably makes his way over to your party, you can’t just kick him out and be done with it. He lives next door, for chrissake! So don’t stress, just become more aware of what you’re putting into your body.
In my personal war against all bloat-inducing-foods (BIFs?), I’ve come across a few unlikely salt culprits that you should consider before slipping on your bikinis this summer – and probs during the rest of the year too. Remember we only need 2,300 mg of sodium (at most) a day, so look out for these surprisingly salty foods:
• Dairy foods. Unprocessed dairy products have pretty low amounts of sodium, but once they are processed the sodium is way higher than expected!
⁃ 1 cup low-fat milk = 107 mg
⁃ 1 oz. slice American cheese = 406 mg
⁃ 1 cup cottage cheese = 851 mg
• Condiments. Who knew mustard and ketchup contained this much sodium? And I don’t feel so guilt-free now ordering the low-sodium soy sauce with my sushi…
⁃ 1 tbsp. mustard or ketchup = 190 mg
⁃ 2 tbsp. fat free italian dressing = 430mg
⁃ 1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce = 600mg
⁃ 1 tbsp. soy sauce = 1,000 mg
• Soup & Sauces. I knew about the sodium content in soup before, but this is borderline obscene. Watch out for those processed tomato products!
⁃ 1 cup Cream of Chicken soup = 1,047 mg
⁃ 1 cup Chicken Vegetable soup = 1,068 mg
⁃ 1 cup tomato sauce = 1,284 mg
• Frozen/canned/packaged foods. I was expecting these to be high, but not for canned beans to have nearly the same amount of sodium as a chicken pot pie! Cray cray.
⁃ 2 slices deli turkey meat = 450 mg
⁃ 1 cup canned beans = 856 mg
⁃ 1 frozen chicken pot pie = 857 mg
⁃ 1 cup mac & cheese = 1,061 mg
• Snacks & Grains. Bread & cereal are never places I expected to find sodium in! And holy dessert – pudding, too!?
⁃ 2 slices whole wheat bread = 268mg
⁃ 1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios = 269 mg
⁃ 1/2 cup pudding = 470 mg
⁃ 10 pretzels = 1,029 mg
• Fast food. I knew it would have more sodium because it’s obviously processed, but this really makes me rethink my love for Taco Bell.
⁃ Cheeseburger = 1,108 mg
⁃ Egg & sausage biscuit = 1,141 mg
⁃ Large taco = 1,233 mg
Clearly we can’t just NOT eat any of these foods anymore. So here are really simple ways we can get around the high sodium problem until the food industry shapes up:
• Limit the toppings. Get the dressing on the side, use unsalted butter if you have to use butter, and just leave extra sauce on your plate.
• Get creative. Instead of lamenting your lack of sodium, you could be discovering an entirely new world of herbs and spices! Think garlic, vinegar, basil, cilantro, pepper, etc., which won’t put your tummy (literally) over the edge.
• Pick fresh over processed foods… Unsalted peanuts have 8 mg of sodium. Three oz. of steak has 55 mg of sodium. A plain baked potato has 5 mg of sodium. Yes, you can eat well sans salt. And if you need something pre-made, just look for the low sodium options.
• Skip the fast food. There will be less salt if you just make yourself – it’s just not worth it!
Whether you want to make these changes in the long run or not, you might need a quick fix. Maybe you’re about to catch some rays, go to a pool party later, or you’ve just annihilated a half a box of Cheez-Its while reading this article. Never fear. You can prevent and/or alleviate bloating by:
⁃ Eat fiber & probiotics. Eating fiber-rich foods like spinach and whole grains to help regulate your system. Also, anything with probiotics (like yogurt) help too!
⁃ Drink water! Not enough will definitely cause water retention, and drinking a little more than usual can help flush sodium out of your system.
⁃ Consume anti-bloat foods. Incorporating a mild diuretic like parsley or pineapple into your meals can ease bloating considerably. Bananas and chamomile tea are purported to ease symptoms as well.
Have you checked your labels lately? Which foods surprised you with their high levels of sodium?