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What Happens If You Eat Too Much Salt?

Do you have a sweet tooth, or are you more of a salty foods fan? If you don’t have much of a craving for sweets, you may be more likely to reach for the salty chips rather than the sweet chocolate. 

Overall, adding salt while cooking is a normal routine in making healthy foods taste palatable. So is sodium really that bad for you? While a pinch of salt can enhance the flavor of a dish, adding too much too often can lead to stroke, hypertension and cardiovascular heart disease, as well as kidney damage. When making the move towards healthier choices, limiting salt is one of the simplest healthy eating habits that you can cultivate.

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The FDA recently announced new targets for sodium in packaged foods in order to encourage companies to reduce the amount of salt in a lot of common grocery store finds. They also updated the daily recommended amount for adults to 2,300 milligrams. Six out of 10 adults should actually be limiting their intake to closer to 1,500 milligrams, but most of us are ingesting more than 3,400 mg a day. That’s a lot of salt!

90% of people above the age of 2 years old are eating too much sodium. Even just a can of store-bought soup can have between 1,400 to 1,800 milligrams of sodium alone! (This is a wonderful reason to make large batches of soup at home and freeze it, since you can easily control the sodium content.)

There are ways to tell if you’re getting too much of the salty stuff. Slowing down and listening to your body’s satiety signals through mindful eating is a great place to start. If you do realize your sodium levels are high there are some ways to tweak your eating habits (which we will get into later).

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We’ve all been there. That extra fluid building up in your body makes you feel expanded and uncomfortable, and that waistband starts feeling a little snug. If your hands and feet look a bit puffy, that bloating can be a sign that you’ve had a bit too much salt. 

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Too much salt makes your kidneys struggle to get rid of fluid, which can cause blood pressure to rise. This causes stress on the heart and blood vessels, so if your doctor takes your blood pressure and those numbers are high - chances are your salt intake is as well. 

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If you’re super thirsty after your meal it may have been pretty high in sodium. Since salt pulls water from your cells (water follows salt), your body tries to replenish that water by increasing your physical cues for thirst. Foods don’t actually have to taste salty for them to have high amounts of sodium - salad dressing, bagels, cottage cheese, beverages with electrolytes, and even instant pudding can be sneaking in salt where you’d never expect it. 

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The more salt in your blood, the more water is pulled from your cells to dilute it, which leads to weakness and fatigue. While sleep seems like the obvious solution, an excess of salt can also have you tossing and turning at night. If you don’t feel rested in the morning, this can be a potential side effect of eating too much salt.

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There are things that you can do to cut your salt intake and do good for your body! Even better news is that high blood pressure begins falling after lowering salt intake within just a few weeks. 

Here are some ways to easily reduce your salt intake: 

- Replace sodium-heavy electrolyte beverages with healthier drink alternatives
- Choose low-sodium condiments wisely (or make your own salt-free condiments)
- Diligently read product packaging at the grocery store
- Cook as many meals as you can at home
- Don’t add salt during the cooking process, just sprinkle it over the top at the end (for a more intense flavor)
- Select better, more flavorful salt-free seasoning blends 

Halt the salt by packing in simple ingredients and flavors that brighten your meals and pack a flavor punch (rather than a gut punch). The effects of too much salt range from just being simply uncomfortable to causing chronic problems, but the benefits of cutting back on salt can do more for your overall health than you might think.