149.9 Lowering Your Sodium

Lowering your sodium is as easy as watching the nutrition facts labels on the foods you eat, and following four easy steps. First, see how many servings are in the container. Second, check how much sodium it has per serving. Third, figure out how much sodium you have already had today. Forth, determine how much of this food you can afford to eat today.

I go into why sodium is so bad for you lower down on this page. Urgently, I want you to see how the nutrition facts label on the can of soup pictured here is dangerously high in sodium, but misleading.

First, there are two servings in the container, which is a can of soup.

Who eats just half a can of soup? I do, now that I realize just how much sodium is in canned soup. I fill myself up with steamed vegetables under the soup, to make up for only eating half the can of soup. I pour the other half in a plastic container and put it in the refrigerator to eat later.

Second, just half a can of this soup has 890 mg of sodium! 

That is a crazily high amount of sodium for just one serving of food. The label says it is only 37% of the recommended daily allowance -- however, if you look at the bottom of the label, this 37% is based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories. I gain fat if I take in 2,000 calories in a day. I maintain my weight at about 1,500 calories per day. This varies by how tall you are and how much exercise you usually get per day.

So, if 890 mg of sodium is 37% of the RDA for a 2,000 calorie daily diet, what % is 890 mg of sodium of my optimum daily diet? I think the easiest way to answer this question is to experiment. For a year now, I have been recording my weight each morning along with my food intake and the amount of exercise I got the day before. That is how I figured out I only need 1,500 calories per day. That is also how I figured out I only need 1,000 mg of sodium per day.

I gain water weight if I eat more than 1,000 mg (a gram) of sodium in a day. I know it is water weight because it comes right off if I lower my sodium the next day to below 1,000 mg, even if I still eat 1,500 calories. More on this lower down the page.

Third, this is only one meal.

What have you already had to eat today that was full of sodium? Bacon? Packaged cereal? Lunch meat? Food that has been pre-cooked and packaged is notorious for being high in sodium. That is most of the hype against "processed food." Hamburger Helper, canned soups, and all those other "easy to prepare" items that you find in the center aisles of grocery stores are loaded with sodium. This label is telling you that for just one cup of soup, barely enough for even one meal, you are getting almost the entire amount of sodium that I can eat in a day without bloating up with water weight.

Forth, this soup tastes good, but I can only have 1/4 of a can a day.

For me, I have to limit my intake of this particular soup to 1/4 of a can per day. That gives me 1/2 of its serving of sodium, and 1/2 x 890 = 445 mg of sodium. 445 mg of sodium is still an awful lot, though. For me, it is close to half the sodium I can eat in a day without gaining weight from retaining water.

Eating too much sodium makes the human body need more water.

This is why lowering your sodium is important. Retaining water makes us weigh more. When we weigh more, our hearts have to work harder to pump our blood. This shows up as increased blood pressure. Here is a post where I go more into how eating too much sodium makes your body need more water. It has to do with a mechanism that biologists call "the sodium potassium pump." There is a video of this on that linked post.

By far, the easiest way to lower your sodium is to cook from scratch.

Raw, unprocessed foods have very little sodium in them. Just buy ingredients and cook them yourself, and you will lower your sodium drastically. If you have been living on processed foods (canned foods, boxes of noodles and dried sauce mix, frozen meals, restaurant food) for a year or more, then you can probably lose 20 or more pounds of water weight in two weeks just by cooking from scratch and not eating any added salt.

Sodium is the new sugar.

If sodium is so bad for us, then why do processed food companies put it in our food? Well, as you can see on the nutrition facts label in the photo on this page, they have cut down on calories, fat, and sugar additives in our food. In the 1970s, sugar was the culprit, as documented in William Dufty's landmark book, Sugar Blues. In the 1990s, fat became the offender. So now, sodium is the only thing processed foods can have in it to make it "taste good."


I gained 1.7 pounds yesterday, and I am just barely within my goal weight of 145 pounds to 149.9 pounds. I walked my usual 1.3 mile route. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Special K and organic soy milk
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Frosted cinnamon roll and half an apple fritter at church fellowship hour
El Monterey beef burrito and salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
El Monterey bean and cheese burrito and salsa
1/4 cup peanut M&Ms
Special K and organic soy milk right before bed (bad idea!)