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Low Sodium Diets and Weight Loss

By Erica Roth ; Updated July 18, 2017

Following a low-sodium diet is a must for people with high blood pressure (hypertension), which can increase the risk for stroke if the condition goes untreated. Low-sodium diets not only can help lower blood pressure, but in some cases can aid weight loss, especially when water retention is a problem. People who are overweight and want to lose weight may also choose to watch their sodium intake to reduce future health risks.

AHA Sodium Recommendations

The American Heart Association recommends that most adults eat fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is the equivalent of 1 tsp. of salt. African-American adults who have high blood pressure should limit this number to 1,500 mg per day. According to the Office of Minority Health, African-American adults have a 40 percent higher chance of developing high blood pressure than those of other backgrounds. Packaged foods sometimes provide nutritional information in grams or percentages of the recommended daily allowance for sodium. One gram is equal to 1,000 mg. People on a low-sodium diet should be aware of the other terms that indicate sodium in a food product, including salt, sodium bicarbonate and baking soda.

Rapid Weight Loss

People who reduce their salt intake may experience an initial weight loss that is rapid, but limited. Sodium causes a person to retain water, which adds to body weight, according to Diets In Review, an online resource about healthy eating. Though someone who begins a low-sodium diet may be pleasantly surprised to see a seemingly large weight loss at first, these results typically end once the dieter returns to a regular pattern of eating.

Maintaining Ideal Weight

Lowering sodium intake on a regular basis can help a person achieve moderate weight loss, if reducing saturated fats and excessive calories are also part of the new approach to eating. "No-salt added" foods can still contain saturated fats and be high in calories, which can pack on the pounds if portion control is not followed. Maintaining an ideal weight through low sodium, low fat and whole grain choices can help a person achieve and maintain a desired weight. The American Heart Association endorses the DASH diet to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, but it can also help a person lose weight. The DASH diet emphasizes the addition of fresh produce and whole grains, as well as exercise, to stay healthy.

Ways to Reduce Sodium

Slashing salt to bring about weight loss includes not only the careful reading of food labels. The American Heart Association explains that choosing low-fat cheeses, yogurts and milk can help limit sodium intake and weight loss efforts in some cases, but this does not mean that low-fat foods across the board are also low in sodium. Frozen dinners, for example, can have a lower fat content and very high sodium levels. Using fresh or frozen vegetables can help reduce the sodium content of foods, and rinsing canned vegetables can rid them of salt that is used in the preservation process. Using fresh or dried herbs can give meat, fish and vegetables a savory flavor without adding salt, fat or calories. Choosing unsalted butter when baking can reduce sodium intake, but may not promote weight loss if portion control is not followed. Asking for gravies, sauces and salad dressings on the side when dining out can control the amount of both salt and fat consumed.

Insights About Health

Studies sponsored by the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHBLI) and those published in an April 2000 issue of the "American Journal of Hypertension" report that people who are overweight and consume high levels of sodium are more likely to experience congestive heart failure. The NHBLI study, which followed participants over 20 years, showed that people who weighed more than their ideal weight and ate a high percentage of their daily calorie intake in sodium were 63 percent more likely to die from heart failure than those who ate a small percentage of sodium in relation to their daily calories. The "American Journal of Hypertension" recommends that weight loss and limiting salt intake can play a role in decreasing the risk of heart disease.

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