Understanding Your Diet: How salt affects your weight

Salt does not cause your body to gain or lose fat. In fact, salt has no calories. High consumption of salt only results in temporary weight gain as it causes your body to retain water. Conversely, low consumption of salt can result in temporary weight loss as it causes your body to expel water. It is interesting to note that many crash diets which boast quick weight loss rely on foods with little or no salt content. The weight loss is mostly water, and as soon as you eat foods containing salt again you regain the weight.

Read the label. 

Packaged foods carry labels that will tell you how much sodium is in a serving; pay attention and tally your intake through the day.

Your fingers swell and your rings get stuck. Your ankles look and feel like a pair of mighty tree trunks. Pants fit tighter, and your bra may become uncomfortably snug. Even the headaches and back pain of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are associated with water retention and have been traced to excess fluid in the disks between the vertebrae and the spine, as well as inside the skull.  Across the board, most Americans tend to retain fluid because of the American diet.  We're accustomed to too much salt. The first thing I tell women with a water-retention problem is to take the salt shaker off the kitchen table.

Stall the shaker. Don't salt food while cooking and tasting it. And stay away from the salt shaker when you're at the table. Try a salt substitute or experiment with herbs and spices for added flavor.

Excess salt (sodium) can also play a big role in water retention. 

A single teaspoon of salt contains over 2,000 mg of sodium.

Generally, we should only eat between 1,000 and 3,000 mg of sodium a day, so it’s easy to go overboard. Sodium is a sneaky substance. You would expect it to be most highly concentrated in salty chips, nuts, and crackers. However, a food doesn’t have to taste salty to be loaded with sodium. A half cup of instant pudding actually contains nearly four times as much sodium as an ounce of salted nuts, 460 mg in the pudding versus 123 mg in the nuts. The more highly processed a food is, the more likely it is to have a high sodium content. That’s why, when it comes to eating, it’s wise to stick mainly to the basics: fruits, vegetables, lean meat, beans, and whole grains. Be sure to read the labels on canned foods, boxed mixes, and frozen dinners.