What You Should Know About Sodium
You probably heard that name for the first time from your chemistry teacher at high school, right? Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na. Our body uses sodium to control blood pressure and blood volume. Sodium is also needed for your muscles and nerves to work properly. However, there should have some limits when it comes to sodium intake. Too much sodium can cause several health problems.
Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it:
- Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body
- Helps transmit nerve impulses
- Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles
Where does sodium come from?
Sodium occurs naturally in most foods. The most common form of sodium is sodium chloride, aka “table salt”. Milk, beets, and celery also naturally contain sodium, as does drinking water, although the amount varies depending on the source.
Sodium is added to various food products. Some of these added forms are monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, sodium saccharin, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and sodium benzoate. These found in items such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion salt, garlic salt, and bouillon cubes.
Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, and canned soups and vegetables are all examples of foods that contain added sodium. Fast foods are generally very high in sodium.
Why is sodium added to food?
- add a salty taste
- enhance flavor
- boost flavor balance and enhance the sweetness of sugary items
- preserve freshness
- help prevent growth of bacteria
- improve texture
- enhance color and hue
What is the recommended intake?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are black, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Keep in mind that these are upper limits, and less is usually best, especially if you’re sensitive to the effects of sodium. If you aren’t sure how much sodium your diet should include, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
What happens if I eat too much sodium?
Too much sodium in the diet may lead to:
- High blood pressure in some people
- A serious build-up of fluid in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis, or kidney disease
- Water Retention
You probably aren’t even aware of just how much sodium is in your diet. Consider that a single teaspoon of table salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride, has 2,325 milligrams (mg) of sodium. And it’s not just table salt you have to worry about. Many processed and prepared foods contain sodium.
Some people’s bodies are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. If you’re sodium sensitive, you retain sodium more easily, leading to fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If this becomes chronic, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure.
Watch out! You might be eating way more sodium than you need. I personally don’t use any salt in my diet and the only sodium I get is from food. I don’t eat processed and canned food, which are 99% of the times really high in sodium. Learn how to read the nutrition facts and always choose lower sodium foods. Cutting back on sodium has made a huge difference in my body!!!