If someone says, “You are the salt of the earth,” you are valuable. Indeed, salt or sodium as been known and valued throughout recorded history. On the other hand, to be told, “You are not worth your salt,” means you are worthless. Did you know that “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt? Like salt, sodium is a crucial mineral that our bodies rely on for fluid and electrolyte balance, acid-base regulation, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission. In moderation, sodium is a must-have for a healthy body. But, when over-consumed, sodium can harm men’s health.
What foods are the highest sources of sodium?
The average American man consumes about 4,000 mg of sodium daily. Most men require only 2,300 mg of sodium each day – unless they have occupations or do activities that cause excess sweating – while other men may be advised to follow a diet of no more than 1500 to 2000 mg of sodium daily due to conditions such as heart failure, hypertension, or chronic kidney disease.
The main problem with controlling sodium is that this mineral is ubiquitous in the American diet. The vast majority of sodium is found in man-made convenience foods such as the following:
- Restaurant foods, especially fast food
- TV dinners
- Canned, boxed, and bagged food items like chips, pretzels, and canned soups and vegetables
- Any frozen food made with a cream sauce
- Deli meats
- Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, brats, bologna, pepperoni, and hot dogs
- Condiments such as pickles, mustard, and ketchup
- Cottage Cheese
- Salted nuts
- Breakfast cereals
What foods are naturally low in sodium?
Many foods naturally contain sodium without adding extra sodium. As stated, sodium is an essential nutrient our bodies require for good health. Here is a list of healthy, low-sodium foods for men to choose most of the time:
- All fresh fruits such as grapes, apples, or bananas
- All fresh vegetables such as green beans, carrots, or asparagus
- Frozen vegetables without added butter or sauce
- Low sodium canned vegetables or use regular but rinse them with cold water in a colander to remove sodium
- Low-sodium vegetable juice
- Frozen, canned, or dried fruits with no added sugars
- Whole Grains such as quinoa, barley, or farro
- Pasta made from whole wheat or pasta made from veggies or beans
- Hot or cold whole-grain breakfast cereals with no added sugars, such as shredded wheat or oatmeal
- Unsalted popcorn
- Whole-grain breads, bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and crackers
- Fresh meats such as lean beef or pork, chicken breast, fresh fish or shellfish
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Dried beans, peas, and lentils
- Canned beans labeled “no salt added” or “low sodium” — rinse beans in a colander under cold running water to remove sodium
- Dairy -Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk and Fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt
- Low-sodium or reduced-sodium cheese — be sure to check the label since cheese can be high in sodiu
- Soy milk or soy yogurt with added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D
- Dressings, Oils, and Condiments
- Unsalted margarine and spreads (soft, tub, or liquid) with less saturated fat than butter
- Vegetable oils (canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, soybean, or sunflower)
- Low-sodium salad dressing — or oil and vinegar
- Low-sodium or “no salt added” ketchup
- Low-sodium salsa or Picante sauce
- Seasonings like herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning blends
- Chopped vegetables — like garlic, onions, and peppers
- Lemon and lime juice
Why is excess sodium harmful to men’s health?
Over time, ignoring high blood pressure, not taking prescribed medications to control blood pressure, and eating a high-sodium diet will take a toll on a man’s body. Excess sodium is linked to several illnesses, including kidney stones and cancer.
Here are harmful medical conditions men can develop when high blood pressure is uncontrolled:
Threatens bone health by weakening bones
Excess sodium has been how to cause the body to excrete calcium, leading to loss of bone density and strength and, ultimately, osteoporosis. Men have lower rates of this brittle bone disease, but once osteoporosis has set it, men will be more susceptible to falls and fractures.
Increases risk of stomach cancer
Cancer of the stomach is more commonly found in men than women. Currently, 1 in 96 men will develop stomach cancer over the course of their lifetime compared to 1 in 152 women getting a diagnosis of stomach cancer. The main causes of this deadly disease are cigarette smoking, people aged 60 or older, who infected with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Also, consuming a diet high in smoked, pickled and salted foods and not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables, are factors that can lead to the development of stomach cancer.
Causes development of kidney stones
Passing a kidney stone is incredibly painful, as both men and women know. However, nearly 11 percent of men will develop a kidney stone during their lifetime compared to only 6 percent of women.
Kidney stones are crystallized minerals and salts found in urine that can stick together, forming stones anywhere from the size of a grain of sand to the dimensions of a ping pong ball. Once a kidney stone is formed, it may stay in the kidney or will travel down the urinary tract, passing through the kidney, bladder, ureter, and urethra before it leaves the body.
The two main reasons why men are more vulnerable to kidney stones than women is that men tend to choose more protein, high sodium diet that makes kidney stones more likely. The second reason is that men often drink less water than recommended – about 64 ounces daily.
Can elevate blood pressure, leading to hypertension
The main condition affecting a man’s heart health is hypertension or high blood pressure. A person’s blood pressure is the force of blood pressing and pushing against blood vessel walls. A person has high blood pressure when the pressure is higher than usual.
The normal range for blood pressure is set at 120/80 mm Hg or less. Individuals falling under this category should maintain their heart-healthy habits, which include following a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine. However, when blood pressure levels are high, this puts men at risk for either a heart attack or stroke.
Men have a higher risk of hypertension than women for several reasons. One reason is men are often unaware if they have high blood pressure since many skip routine doctor visits. If a man is diagnosed with high blood pressure, they may not take their prescribed medications. Men also tend to choose high-sodium foods that can lead to high blood pressure.
When high blood pressure is uncontrolled, a man’s risk for chronic kidney disease, kidney stones, and heart-related conditions, such as heart failure and events like a heart attack or stroke, will be elevated.
Take home message
Be mindful of sodium consumption to prevent severe, possibly life-threatening health conditions. Reduce intake of ultra-processed, convenience foods high in sodium, and instead choose more whole, natural foods with minimal amounts of sodium.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.