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Sodium and Weight Loss Surgery: Questions Answered

What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral and an essential nutrient. To stay healthy, you need to get at least some sodium from your diet, although that is not a challenge for most people. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps your body maintain water balance. It is also necessary for nerve impulses and muscle contraction.

What effect does sodium have on health?

Some sodium is necessary, but too much is unhealthy. A high-sodium diet raises your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Too much salt may increase your risk of osteoporosis – already a concern for bariatric surgery patients – and possibly of stomach cancer.

What effect does sodium have on weight?

Sodium has no calories, so it cannot directly cause you to gain body fat. Still, you may have found out personally that a high-sodium meal or day can lead to water retention and a bump on the scale in the short term! Many salty foods do tend to be high in calories from other sources (many salty foods are junk foods!), and a high-salt diet can be a red flag for a high-calorie one.

Which foods are high in sodium?

The biggest dietary source of sodium is salt and far higher in sodium than natural sources are processed foods.

  • Pickles, cheese, and olives.

  • Processed meat, such as ham, turkey breast, salami, and pastrami.

  • Many condiments, such as salad dressings, pasta sauce, salsa, and soy sauce.

  • Canned goods, including soup, tuna, vegetables, and beans.

  • Prepared meals, such as frozen meals, rotisserie chicken, and meatballs.

  • Fast foods, such as burgers, tacos, sandwiches, fries, fried rice, and pizza.

  • Bread and most breakfast cereals.

Salt that you add in cooking and at the table also increases the sodium content.

Which foods are low in sodium?

Fresh fruit, oils and fats, grains, nuts, and beans, peas, and lentils, are naturally very low in sodium. Unprocessed meat and poultry, milk and dairy products, seafood, and vegetables naturally have a small amount of sodium. Water is sodium-free.

How concerned should you be about sodium?

Well…somewhat, but not overly concerned. Too much sodium is definitely not a good thing, but your sodium consumption may not be your top priority.

  • Losing weight as a bariatric surgery patient or candidate is going to do far more for your health than cutting back on sodium.

  • Counting calories, protein, and carbs may be as much as you can handle for now without counting milligrams of sodium.

  • Making generally healthy choices can help you lower sodium consumption.

What are some tips for lowering sodium?

You can take a healthy approach to eating and reduce the amount of sodium you consume without counting each milligram. Being aware of what you are eating is a good strategy. These tips can help you cut back on sodium without making it feel like a chore.

  • Choose lean proteins and vegetables. Hey – this fits with your WLS diet!

  • Read labels to choose unsalted and low or reduced-sodium foods.

  • Get dressings, sauces, and condiments on the side, and use less when you can.

  • Choose less processed foods when you can: think tofu over veggie burgers, chicken breast over turkey slices, and fresh fish over canned tuna.

  • Use less salt during cooking, and experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor without sodium.

  • Only add table salt after tasting your food.

Is there anything that can counterbalance sodium?

Yes! Potassium is sort of an antidote to sodium because it has the opposite effect on your blood pressure. Fruit, dairy products, beans, and vegetables are all good sources of potassium, and they are healthy choices. Also, you should drink extra water if you consume extra salt.

Sodium is something to be on your radar for health, even if it is not your top nutrient of concern for weight loss. It comes down to choosing an overall healthy diet and being aware of your choices – something that you are sure to be an expert at as you approach and recover from weight loss surgery.

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