by Arizona Medifast
One of the most popular pieces of advice being given to those trying to lose weight is to reduce, or even eliminate sodium from the program, in addition to cutting calories and exercising. People who eliminate sodium from their weight program will see a very brief reduction in weight, due solely to water loss, and thus think this is an effective weight loss tool.
In reality, sodium is something the body needs every day to function properly. Removing it from the menu will cause a person to lose a few pounds of water, but will not cause the loss of actual body fat as sodium has no calories.
Why Does the Body Need Sodium?
Sodium intake allows for the body to function properly, as sodium is a very important electrolyte to the body and serves a number of purposes. It is important in the balancing of fluids in the tissue and cells of the body, and to the proper working of blood cells. Sodium is also important to the muscles of the body, and helps stimulate nervous activity in them.
How Much Sodium Does the Body Need?
While sodium is important for the proper function of the body on a daily basis, there are healthy and unhealthy amounts. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States recommends approximately 500mg of sodium per day for children over the age of four as well as adults. This is far less than what the average person consumes on a daily basis, and is significantly less than what the optimal intake of sodium is.
How Does the Body Get Sodium?
An optimal amount of daily sodium is approximately 2400mg, which is a little over 1 tsp. of salt (1 tsp contains 2300mg). There is sodium already present in many of the foods eaten including meat, dairy products, and vegetables. The majority of daily sodium comes from processed foods, which have sodium added to their processing before buyers even get the chance to add salt of their own for flavoring.
One important note about adding salt to foods is that sodium is only 40% of common table salt. Remember to account for this while watching salt intake.
Sodium and Water Retention
Water in the body will move from an area of low salinity to an area of high salinity in an attempt to balance the amount of sodium inside and outside the tissue. This movement of water is how the body either loses or retains water based on sodium intake. Consuming a large amount of sodium will make the blood saltier than the cells, drawing water into the skin. This causes the “puffy” look for a person who has had a large amount of salt in a short period of time.
Consuming a very small amount of sodium, or none at all, will cause the body’s cells to draw water in from the surrounding blood. This removes water from the surrounding skin tissue, causing a person to lose a pound or two. While this may seem ideal for the quick loss of pounds, it is really nothing more than starving the body of something it needs to function properly.