How often do you feel stressed? I don’t know if I’m just a soft rag doll of a woman, but I am super vulnerable to stress. My mind makes a list of a dozen things I have to accomplish that day. I also constantly encounter slights (perceived or real) throughout my life.
Case in point: X, someone I only met once (and who was actually kind of mean to me??) emailed me about a week ago to ask me for a pretty big favor. I said I couldn’t take on such a project, but I know Y, who is more expert in this field. I emailed this Y to very politely ask him if he’d be interested in doing this, and Y eventually declined with not a whole lot of warmth. So, I didn’t really like the fact that I begged Y and got rejected—not even for myself, but for X. And then I let X know Y’s answer, and X still continued asking me for more favors. It’s this kind of stuff that just sucks the life out of me, dumplings. Why. Why. Why.
My altruism often results in more stress than is my proper due. But this article isn’t about that! It’s about how we can reduce stress significantly by cutting out something quite simple from our diet. It turns out that a high-sodium diet results in increased level of stress. A new study by the scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that a high-salt diet increases stress hormones by a whopping 75%.
Salt’s effect on the cardiovascular system is widely known. It contributes to high blood pressure, which in turn raises risks of stroke, heart attack, and vascular dementia. But as a longtime vegan, I have often considered salt my only real safe “friend” to flavor food and generally live a little. Vegans of course don’t consume animal fat, and our blood pressure is lower. My blood pressure has been on the far low end of normal range for decades. If something tasted bland, I felt no qualms about sprinkling some tasty pink Himalayan salt on top. So this is absolutely chilling!
Salt intake boosts the activity of genes that produce certain proteins, which control the body’s response to stress. So a high-salt diet not only raises the resting stress hormone levels, but also doubles the response to environmental stress. (Read: when reading X’s follow-up email asking me for more help, I could have been half as annoyed if I hadn’t been feasting on vegan mac n’ cheese.)
High-salt diet also weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections. For older adults with low activity levels, salt can also contribute to cognitive decline, including dementia.
The simplest way you could combat the effects of high-salt diet is to watch your intake. Take into account how much you normally exercise and perspire—if you sweat a lot, you need more sodium in your diet. Women with high-sodium diets can also benefit from balancing it with potassium: eating foods like bananas and avocados on the regular will help.
As we face the holiday season, which generally call for high-salt foods like vegan roasts, this is a great reminder for us to put our health first. I’m definitely going to be more mindful of my salt intake from now on—how about you?
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Photo: Matheus Ferrero via Unsplash