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Body Blog: Beat the Bloat

Sodium is like that annoying, socially awkward kid who just can’t take a hint. No matter where you go, he’s there, usually sporting some short jorts, trying to get your attention.  He knows he’s not welcome, at least he should,  but he can’t take a hint. And then you’re bloated.

OK, so I might be mixing up my analogy here (I don’t think sodium wears cut-offs or weird kids make you retain water), but you get my point: sodium is annoying, it’s bad for you and it happens to be in everything. Which might be tasty, but is also a problem when we’re only supposed to consume around 2,300 mg of sodium a day (which is basically a teaspoon of salt). Besides the other harmful effects sodium has on the body (think high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, etc), the biggest offender – especially in bikini season – is bloating.

Blah. Bloating. Even the word sounds fat.

Summer bloat is every girl’s worst nightmare. No matter how hard we hit the gym to get fit for summer, that extra water retention always manages to come back and haunt us right before we hit the beach. So how can we prevent it? Easy, avoid sodium. And how do we avoid sodium? Well, you gotta know where to find it….

On average, only 5% of our daily sodium intake is from adding salt into our foods. The real culprits are processed and prepared foods. A whopping 77% of our daily sodium intake comes from these foods! In my personal war against all bloat-inducing-foods (BIFs?), I’ve come across a few unlikely salt culprits that you should consider before slipping on your bikinis this summer – and probs during the rest of the year too.

Dairy foods.
Unprocessed dairy products have pretty low amounts of sodium, but once they are processed the sodium is way higher than expected!
– 1 cup low-fat milk = 107 mg
– 1 oz. slice American cheese = 406 mg
– 1 cup cottage cheese = 851 mg

Condiments.
Who knew mustard and ketchup contained this much sodium? Not I. And that low-sodium soy sauce we’ve all been reaching for? Yeah, don’t let that green cap fool you.
– 1 tbsp. mustard or ketchup = 190 mg
– 2 tbsp. fat free Italian dressing = 430mg
– 1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce = 600mg
–  1 tbsp. soy sauce = 1,000 mg

Soup & Sauces.
These stats are borderline obscene.
– 1 cup Cream of Chicken soup = 1,047 mg
– 1 cup Chicken Vegetable soup = 1,068 mg
– 1 cup tomato sauce = 1,284 mg

Frozen/canned/packaged foods.
I was expecting these to be high, but not for canned beans to have nearly the same amount of sodium as a chicken pot pie! Cray cray.
– 2 slices deli turkey meat = 450 mg
– 1 cup canned beans = 856 mg
– 1 frozen chicken pot pie = 857 mg
– 1 cup mac & cheese = 1,061 mg

Snacks & Grains.
Bread & cereal are never places I expected to find sodium! But that stuff is hiding (in major amounts) everywhere. Even dessert. What’s the deal, pudding!?
– 2 slices whole wheat bread = 268mg
– 1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios = 269 mg
– 1/2 cup pudding = 470 mg
– 10 pretzels = 1,029 mg

Fast food.
These numbers really makes me rethink my love for Taco Bell.
– Cheeseburger = 1,108 mg
– Egg & sausage biscuit = 1,141 mg
– Large taco = 1,233 mg

Clearly we can’t just NOT eat any of these foods anymore, so here are simple ways we can get around the high sodium problem until the food industry shapes up:

1. Limit the toppings. Get the dressing on the side, use unsalted butter if you have to use butter, and leave that extra sauce on your plate. You do NOT need to lap it up with bread, peeps.

2. Get creative. Instead of lamenting your lack of sodium, you could be discovering an entirely new world of herbs and spices! Think garlic, vinegar, basil, cilantro, pepper, etc., which won’t put your tummy (literally) over the edge (of your bikini bottoms).

3. Pick fresh over processed foods. Unsalted peanuts have 8 mg of sodium. Three ounces of steak has 55 mg of sodium. A plain baked potato has 5 mg of sodium. Yes, you can eat well sans salt. And if you need something pre-made, just look for the low sodium options.

4. Skip the fast food. But really, sodium is the least of the problems with this stuff!

Whether you want to make these changes in the long run or not, you might need a quick fix. Maybe you’re about to catch some rays, go to a pool party tonight, or you’ve just annihilated a half a box of Cheez-Its while reading this article. Never fear. You can prevent and/or alleviate bloating by:

1. Eat fiber & probiotics. Eating fiber-rich foods like spinach and whole grains will help regulate your system. Also, anything with probiotics (like yogurt) helps too!

2. Drink water!
Not enough will definitely cause water retention, and drinking a little more than usual can help flush sodium out of your system.

3. Consume anti-bloat foods.
Incorporating a mild diuretic like parsley or pineapple into your meals can ease bloating considerably. Bananas and chamomile tea are purported to ease symptoms as well.

In the end, check your labels! Knowledge is power and in this case, knowledge is the power to beat the bloat.

  • Related TopicsBody Health bikini body blog
    I forget about life while reading a good book. I have a weird obsession with nutrition facts. I hate clichés. I like exploring new cities, adjectives, family, autumn on campus, Adobe CS4, and adrenaline rushes. After I've done large amounts of traveling and working, I'm going to live, write, & design in a large, rambling house in the country. Preferably on my wraparound porch with a glass of red wine in my hand and a Samoyed at my feet. But then again, I don't know. I haven't really thought about it much.