For all those Americans with six-pack abs at the top of their resolution list this year, there’s good news: The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association launches its three-week Sodium Swap Challenge on Facebook on Monday.
So what’s the connection with a six-pack? One of the key ways to develop impressive abdominals beyond increasing cardiovascular activity, and reducing fat and sugar, is sodium reduction. Sodium is an essential mineral needed by the muscles and nervous system for proper functioning. The American diet, however, includes an overabundance of salt. In the presence of excess salt, the body retains water, causing most muscular definition, in the abs or anywhere else to blur.
The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. With fast food and salty snacks abound, it’s not a tough threshold to exceed. Some American restaurants have single portion meals that exceed a whopping 4,000 milligrams of sodium. In a 2009 study, researchers at the Center for Science in the Public Interest examined 17 chain restaurants and found that more than 80 percent of entrees examined had more than one day's worth of sodium. Some had more than four day’s worth.
The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, according to the AHA
Through the Sodium Swap Challenge, the AHA hopes to increase awareness of "The Salty Six"– foods like pizza or, surprisingly, bread and rolls that may be loaded with sodium. Beyond “soft” muscle definition, excess sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, the AHA says.
During the Sodium Swap Challenge, the organization will challenge participants week-by-week to reduce salty food options and swap them for healthier ones, like low-sodium cold cuts or pizza with less cheese and more veggies instead of cured meats like pepperoni. It also encourages consumers to look for the Heart-Check Food Certification Program labels at the grocery store on foods that are heart-healthy.
So, if vanity at the beach during Spring Break is what you’re after, the Sodium Swap Challenge is a positive, fun step toward that six-pack goal while lowering sodium intake for better health. And that’s a move that's more than worth its salt.