If a group of health experts told you that you could look and feel better in 21 days by changing just one thing about your diet, would you do it? What if that single change could make your clothes fit better and give you a more slender appearance? And what if it had the potential to improve your overall health? All of these things are possible if you reduce your sodium intake for just three weeks.
The Effect of Salt on Your Body
According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, despite the fact that the organization recommends a total intake of only 1,500 milligrams for most adults. So what does all that sodium do to your body? In the short term, it makes your face puffy and your clothes fit tighter. But over the long term it may increase your risk of heart failure and stroke.
How to Reduce Your Sodium Intake
In January 2013, the AHA launched a campaign to help Americans reduce their salt intake. They named specific foods to reduce each week in order to lower your total sodium intake. Use their plan to look and feel better in 21 days.
- Week 1 – Start by tackling your consumption of breads and rolls as well as cold cuts and cured meats. For example, one piece of bread can have as much as 230 milligrams of sodium while a serving of turkey cold cuts could contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium. When your recommended daily intake is kept to 1,500 milligrams or less, it’s amazing how fast it all adds up. Check your labels on these items, look for lower sodium items and track your sodium consumption each day and log how much you’ve shaved out of your diet. Portion control does make a difference. Foods eaten several times a day add up to a lot of sodium, even though each serving is not high.
- Week 2 – Keep that momentum going! This week’s foods include pizza and poultry. If you’re going to eat pizza, try to aim for one with less cheese and meats or lower sodium versions of these items or try something different and add veggies instead. When cooking for your family this week use fresh, skinless poultry that is not enhanced with sodium solution rather than fried or process
- Week 3 – As you round out your challenge and embark on the last week of your challenge, your focus includes soups and sandwiches. The two together typically make a tasty lunch or dinner duo, but one cup of chicken noodle or tomato soup may have up to 940 milligrams – it varies by brand –and, after you add all of your meats, cheeses and condiments to your sandwich, you can easily surpass 1,500 milligrams in one day. This week, when choosing a soup, check the label and try lower sodium varieties of your favorites and make your sandwiches with lower sodium meats and cheeses and try to eliminate piling on your condiments. Be sure to track your sodium and try to keep your daily consumption to less than 1,500 milligrams.
Of course, after the three week period is over, the goal is to maintain a reduced sodium intake. But at that point you’ve retrained your taste buds to need less salt. Give it a try and let me know how it goes by posting your comments on the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss Facebook page.