Read an Excerpt
All set to go with The Secret to Skinny plan? Before we explain how dropping the salt can help you drop a size, you might want to better understand what too much salt does to your health and your appearance and therefore why it's so important to stick to the plan.
Many people are well aware of the health problems that too much salt can cause, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. But most people aren't aware of how excess salt contributes to weight gain.
Sodium, along with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chloride, and potassium, is an electrolyte that helps keep your metabolism running, ensures proper flow of nutrients and waste into and out of your body, and maintains the acid-base (pH) balance in your blood. If you get too much sodium, you create electrolyte imbalances that throw your body off-kilter. This means your metabolism can't function at its peak, and you can't burn as much fat as you should.
Excess salt also negatively affects insulin, a hormone that helps transport sugar out of the blood and into the muscles and tissues for energy. This means that insulin can't do its job, so sugar builds up in the blood, damaging vessels and making it difficult for fat-burning oxygen to flow to cells and melt fat. Making matters worse, when people gain weight, especially in the abdominal area, they can become insulin resistant. This means their bodies don't respond well to insulin. In response, the pancreas secretes more insulin, which in time can result in diabetes. With higher insulin levels, not only does your body store more fat, but your kidneys will have a harder time getting rid of salt, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances, high blood pressure, and bloating.
Have you ever found it hard to stop eating after a handful of salty chips or salted nuts? Your willpower wasn't an issue. The fact is salty foods increase your thirst and hunger, making it more likely that you'll consume calories you don't need. And, as we mentioned in the Introduction, recent research shows that a high-salt diet causes fat cells to become denser, which is not going to help you win the battle of the bulge.
Bloating and Appearance
In addition to weight gain, too much sodium can take a toll on your appearance, including causing a puffy, tired-looking face. Ever notice that after a meal filled with salty foods (think soy sauce, smoked fish or meat, French fries, or chips) your stomach is distended and you weigh more the next morning? That's your body's reaction to eating too much salt. The retention of extra water and fluid leads to major bloating. Even if you're skinny, you'll still look bloated and puffy from all the excess fluid.
Think you can hide the bloat with your clothes? You may be able to if you're a fashion genius, but you can't hide it on your face. Think about how people look when they have a hangover after too much alcohol. They wake up feeling tired and headachy, and when they look in the mirror, the result is on their face. It's the same with a 'salt hangover.' (See our Emergency Salt Hangover Remedies in chapter 4 on page 78.)
Excess salt damages your cells, which means you won't look as good as you usually do because injured cells on the inside lead to damage on the outside. What's more, most salty, processed foods lack essential nutrients (B vitamins and zinc) that help your body maintain optimal health, and they also lack the antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E) that help fight off damaging free radicals. Too many salty, processed foods increase inflammation in your body, which can then lead to red and irritated skin and puffy bags under the eyes, as well as serious degenerative diseases.
Salt-filled foods can lead to cardiovascular disease, not only from high blood pressure, but also from increased fat and cholesterol intake. Most of the salt Americans get comes from processed food, which is full of fat, cholesterol, and calories. Not only do these fats attach to your waist, hips, and thighs, they also clog and harden your arteries and make it more difficult for oxygen to get to your cells. When oxygen can't get to your cells, not only can't you burn fat, but you are also at higher risk for a heart attack. When your heart pumps blood through the blood vessels, oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your cells, and waste products are removed (you get an energized body, glowing skin, nourished muscles, and increased fat burning). As it circulates, your blood exerts a force against the walls of the blood vessels, and this force is known as your blood pressure (BP). Problems occur when your blood vessels get clogged up. This can happen from eating large amounts of fat and cholesterol, but too much salt intake is also a major culprit in clogging the pipes. Since excess salt intake leads to excess water in the blood, there is more pressure in your blood vessels, and your heart has to work harder. This is what we call high blood pressure or hypertension.
If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, you have prehypertension, which means you're likely to develop high blood pressure in the future. About 90 percent of Americans will develop hypertension (a blood pressure higher than 140/90) at some point in their lives. Shocking, we know! High blood pressure affects one in three adultsthat's 72 million Americans! Prehypertension affects another 69 million Americans, and the biggest culprit for developing prehypertension is salt intake.
People with prehypertension are two and a half times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease over the following twelve years than people with normal blood pressure. People with prehypertension also have double the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people with normal blood pressure.
The average American consumes 3,000 to 5,000 milligrams of sodium a day. If you cut out 25 to 30 percent of your intake you would just barely reach the maximum amount of sodium you should be consuming. And that could save your life. (Hopefully those white crystals are becoming a little less tempting.)
According to the Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake of sodium for people 19 to 50 years old is 1,500 milligrams (3.8 grams of salt) per day, the amount it takes to replace the average amount lost in a day from sweat, tears, and other bodily processes. The American Heart Association, the USDA, and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans all recommend consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about 5 grams of salt), which is equivalent to about 1 teaspoon of salt. So the average American actually consumes twice the recommended amount! It may not sound like a big difference, but it's enough to influence your health. And it's a far cry from the 600 to 750 milligrams of sodium that our ancestors took in. The human body is not biologically designed to handle as much salt as we now consume, which is why excess salt is such a health concern.
Think You Can't Drop the Salt?
Try These Sodium-Saving Swaps
in a year and 13 days' worth of sodium.
• Dump that biscuit with 12 grams of fat and 750 milligrams of sodium and have a whole wheat dinner roll instead. Do this twice a week and save three pounds per year and 26 days' worth of sodium.
• Switch your morning bowl of Special K (330 milligrams of sodium) to a bowl of oatmeal with fresh blueberries (0 milligrams of sodium) three days a week and save 7 days' worth of sodium a year.
• Swap Wolfgang Puck's All Natural Uncured Pepperoni Pizza (1,110 calories, 2,370 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of fat) for South Beach Diet Harvest Wheat Crust Grilled Chicken & Vegetables Pizza (330 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium, and 10 grams of fat); or Lean Cuisine Deep Dish Margherita Pizza (340 calories, 540 milligrams of sodium, and 9 grams of fat); or Healthy Choice Gourmet Supreme Pizza (360 calories, 460 milligrams of sodium,
and 4 grams of fat).
• Want to be five pounds lighter tomorrow? Swap your Chinese restaurant General Tso's Chicken (1,300 calories, 3,200 milligrams of sodium, and 11 grams of saturated fat) for one cup of chicken and snow peas, one cup of brown rice, and a side of steamed broccoli (501 calories, 379 milligrams of sodium, and 0.5 grams of saturated fat).
• Want another swap to make you five pounds lighter the next morning?
Swap your miso soup, crunchy shrimp roll, tempura roll, and spicy salmon = GRAND TOTAL: 2,019 CALORIES; 4,052 MILLIGRAMS OF SODIUM for:
2 cups unsalted edamame with pods, salmon with wasabi, 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce on the side, and steamed veggies with one half cup of brown rice = GRAND TOTAL: 400 CALORIES, 639 MILLIGRAMS OF SODIUM. You'll save 1,619 calories and 3,413 milligrams of sodium. Do this once a week and you'll save 24 pounds and 77 days of sodium a year!
Calcium Loss and Osteoporosis
If you take the time to work out and perform weight-bearing exercises a few days a week to keep your bones strong, all of your hard work could be undermined by eating too much salty food. Unbelievable, but true. Studies show that postmenopausal women with a high-salt diet lose more bone minerals than other women of the same age, putting them at higher risk of osteoporosis. And don't think that just because you haven't yet gone through menopause you can eat all the salt you want. The typical American diet contains so much sodium that it results in a lack of calcium absorption from the food you eatin any age group. Considering that most Americans don't meet the minimum daily calcium requirements, less calcium absorption spells trouble and it results in weaker bones over time. The two minerals, sodium and calcium, compete to be reabsorbed in the kidneys, and when more sodium than calcium is in the body, the sodium wins entry into the kidneys. Since there is a lot more sodium than calcium in our food, it is no surprise that calcium loses out most of the time. It has been found that for every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you take in, you lose about 40 milligrams of calcium. Considering that the average American takes in about 4,000 milligrams of sodium per day, we're talking about a calcium loss of almost 80 milligrams a day. The recommended amount of calcium is 1,000 milligrams a day for adult men and women (up until the age of 50), and the average intake is only 737 milligrams a day. You probably already don't get what you need, never mind the excess you lose from your sodium intake. The good news is we can help both problems with effective exercises and our salt-slashing lifestyle plan.
So get ready to improve your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and beat the battle of the bulgeand bloatfor good.
©2009. Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, Lyssie Lakatos, RD. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Secret to Skinny. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442